Strangulation Charges in New Jersey

“Strangulation is a second degree felony assault crime under NJSA 2C:12-1(b)(13), and a form of domestic violence in New Jersey. This felony charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.”

Strangulation Law in New Jersey

Strangulation Law in New Jersey

New Jersey has firm laws punishing domestic violence to address the rising social cost. And a recent bill shows that domestic violence is a problem the state wants to tackle. In July of 2021, Governor Murphy put his pen to the bill S2503, making third degree assault by strangulation a second degree crime. Recognizing the danger to domestic violence victims who are likely to suffer grave injury or death from escalating violence, New Jersey legislators passed the bill increasing the grade level and the corresponding punishment for strangulation offenses. The New Jersey legislators noted that convicted domestic violence perpetrators leave prison and return to the community after serving their three to five years, which increased assault by strangulation domestic violence. The law change intends to deter further violence and keep convicted domestic violence defendants longer before returning to society.

Law on Strangulation in NJ

While the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act protects domestic violence victims from enumerated crimes including assault, strangulation is not specified in the Act, but domestic violence strangulation is part of the aggravated assault law, specifically found in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13). The crime of strangulation includes a domestic violence act of one person purposely and without regard to another’s life, stopping another’s breath or blood circulation by squeezing their throat or preventing breathing through the nose. Up until July 2021, domestic violence strangulation assault was a third degree crime, punishable by a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $15,000.00 fine. Now, it is a second degree crime and a convicted defendant faces up to ten years in prison and a $150,000.00 fine. Second degree criminal convictions carry a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 10 years. In addition, there is a presumption that a second degree criminal conviction means incarceration in state prison.

There are essentially three (3) elements the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to sustain a conviction for 2nd degree domestic violence strangulation in New Jersey:

  • There is a domestic violence relationship between the parties
  • The Defendant stopped another’s breath or blood circulation and intended to do so
  • The defendant acted purposefully and without regard for the victim’s life

Without experienced defense representation, an individual accused of assault by strangulation is facing state prison. However, that may not be the case with a top-notch legal defense. Call (201)-556-1570 if you would like to talk to a lawyer about your strangulation charge at no cost. 

Strangulation-Based Restraining Orders

In many cases, a restraining order follows an incident or series of incidences of violence after the police investigate a domestic violence case or the victim seeks one on an emergency basis. And usually, accompanying an assault by strangulation charge is a restraining order. A victim who claims injuries and endangerment by the accused may seek assistance from the courts. The Prevention of Domestic violence Act permits anyone over 18 or an emancipated minor to seek protection from the courts if they are a victim of one of the Act’s enumerated violent or sex crimes. When they can show evidence of the strangulation assault and the requisite relationship, a victim may get a restraining order to keep the accused away from them at home, school, work, or wherever they commonly go.

A restraining order once final, can be lifelong. There is no termination date on a final restraining order, which means the restrained party must not contact the protected party or possess firearms indefinitely.

NOTE: It is important to remember and understand that any restraining order is civil in nature and handled in the Family Division of the Superior Court. On the other hand, strangulation criminal charges are a felony and will be prosecuted by the County Prosecutor’s office in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court. These are two (2) separate and distinct cases with different burdens of proof and could potentially have different outcomes.

Defenses for Strangulation

The effect of the grade elevation for domestic violence strangulation is longer prison sentences, higher fines, and distance and protection for the victim. However, not all victims are indeed victims. Domestic violence can be a two-way street when both parties engage in violence, and each must defend their life. Thus, an accused who strangles their spouse or significant other to keep them from hurting or killing them is acting in self-defense and not the perpetrator anticipated by second degree assault. Moreover, domestic violence claims may be false and retaliatory for a rejection or to gain leverage in a divorce or custody battle or for other reasons to cause serious legal trouble. Thus, a claimed victim who comes to court with pictures of finger bruises on their neck must convince a judge that they are victims and not abusers when the defendant counters with a self-defense argument.

In addition, strangulation is sometimes part of consensual sexual activity or rough intercourse. For example, suppose the strangled party agreed to engage in the sex act, including strangulation. In that case, the victim is not a victim and has no claim to domestic violence or assault by strangulation. But the consent must be free and not forced or coerced. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:2-10, consent is a defense when both parties understand that possible injury is a risk in the acts they consent to, which would seem to include strangulation as part of sexual play. Further, in a 2017 New Jersey Superior Court case T.M. v. R.M.W. (456 N.J. Super. 446, 195 A.3d 152 (Ch. Div. 2017)), the court confirmed that consensual rough sex might undermine a victim’s assertion of assault.

2nd Degree Strangulation Results in Complete Dismissal in Passaic County NJ Thanks to the Tormey Law Firm

Our office represented a client in 2023-2024 who was charged with a 2nd degree domestic violence strangulation out of Passaic County NJ. The allegations were that he strangled his brother. Both parties are grown adult men and got into a mutual physical altercation. We were able to get the Defendant released from jail after his initial arrest and then gathered evidence and developed a defense to these serious charges. First, we were able to convince the Passaic County Prosecutor’s in the Domestic Violence Unit that this was not properly charged as a strangulation and that this was not what the statute was designed for – domestic violence abusers and victims. This was a physical fight between two grown adult men which should have been charged as a simple assault (disorderly persons offense) for mutual fighting. They agreed and downgraded these serious felony charges to a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) and remanded it back to the Pompton Lakes Municipal Court.

Once we appeared in Municipal Court, the alleged victim, his brother, who lives in Ohio, failed to appear on multiple occasions in court. Without his appearance and testimony, the prosecutor would be unable to prove any of the charges against our client. As a result, we moved to dismiss the charges for lack of prosecution and based on a violation of our client’s right to a speedy trial and the Judge granted our motion. The case was completely dismissed and we filed for an expedited expungement to remove the arrest from our client’s record as well.

Frequently Asked Questions on Domestic Violence Strangulation Charges in New Jersey

FAQ: Can I get PTI on a 2nd degree strangulation charge in NJ?

It’s possible but not likely. You can’t even apply for PTI on a second degree charge unless the prosecutor consents to your application. In addition, if they do agree to PTI, because it is a domestic violence charge, you must plead guilty to the offense in order to gain admission into PTI. This guilty plea can effect your immigration status if you are not a US citizen. Also, if you violate PTI with a new arrest then you merely come back to court to be sentenced on a 2nd degree charge facing 5-10 years in prison because they already have a guilty plea. Finally, because this is a violent offense you must serve 85% of your prison sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

FAQ: Will the victim have a say in the outcome of the case?

Yes, the victim will have input on the resolution of the matter. However, the State (the County Prosecutor’s office) will ultimately decide how the case will proceed and is potentially resolved.

Accused of Strangulation in NJ? Contact a Criminal & Domestic Violence Lawyer Today

If you are up on charges for strangulation, be sure to hire the best criminal and domestic violence defense attorney you can find, who is familiar with the charge, the laws on strangulation in New Jersey, and ways of defending these cases. Move confidently forward knowing you have a lawyer to defend you against the strangulation charges, raising any defenses you may have, and handling the accompany restraining order as well. Your attorney should also be one who can help you fight a restraining order so your freedom is not restricted on top of imprisonment, financial penalties, and the damage of being placed in the Domestic Violence Registry.

Call on a highly qualified New Jersey defense lawyer, such as those at The Tormey Law Firm, to fight your second degree strangulation case. Immediate assistance in a free consultation is available now by contacting our team online or calling (201)-556-1570.


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