Domestic assault is one of the more common family violence crimes in Texas and is usually a misdemeanor offense. State law, however, does allow for these crimes to be graded as felonies when the offense involves certain offenses. In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a law that made it a felony for a person to strangle or suffocate an alleged victim. Many of the assault by strangulation charges are based purely on the statements of alleged victims, but prosecutors rarely have the evidence needed to prove such allegations.
Assault by Strangulation Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, TX
If you or your loved one were arrested for alleged assault by strangulation in the Fort Worth area, you want to avoid saying anything to authorities until you have legal representation. Let the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy deal with the police for you.
Our firm can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. We can assess all of your legal options when you call (817)-422-5350 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.
Assault by Strangulation Charges in Fort Worth
Texas Penal Code § 22.01(a) establishes that a person commits assault if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse, intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse, or intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative. While this is traditionally a Class A misdemeanor, the offense becomes a third-degree felony when an alleged offender commits the crime against a person whose relationship to or association with the alleged offender is described by Texas Family Code § 71.0021(b) (dating relationship), Texas Family Code § 71.003 (family member), or Texas Family Code § 71.005 (household member) if the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.
A strangulation case could involve an alleged offender allegedly using an object such as a phone cord to commit the strangulation or suffocation. In many other cases, the strangulation or suffocation is manually performed with an alleged offender’s hands.
These types of criminal charges may stem from victims who claim they were strangled and have visible injuries indicating strangulation. Some of the common injuries may include bloodshot eyes, small red spots on the neck or face caused by vessels bursting from the pressure of a restraining hold, abrasions under the chin, dizziness, numbness in the extremities, headaches, sore throat, difficulty speaking, swollen neck, and stiff neck.
Manual strangulation is defined as using one’s body to impede breath. Commonly manual strangulations are done by using the hands or arms to block the victim’s mouth, nose, or neck.
Ligature, on the other hand, is when an object is used to choke the victim. For instance, the offender may use a rope, chain, phone cord, shoelace, or clothing to crush the victim’s throat.
Lastly, hanging is when the suspension is used to impede breath in a victim. A victim could be hung using an overhead light cord, or rope, or have plastic bags around their mouth or nose to stop airflow.
In the event of a strangulation case, law enforcement is required to make an arrest. This is even if there is no physical injury or minor ones. There is a chance the offender may be arrested at the scene of the offense.
Law enforcement must question the victim when investigating an assault by strangulation. If the alleged victim has ulterior motives, it can be incredibly hard for authorities to discern what the truth is. False allegations do occur with suffocation cases, specifically of a sexual nature.
Signs of strangulation that law enforcement is trained to look for are:
- a sore throat;
- sounding “out of breath” because of a broken trachea or narrow air tube;
- difficult speaking;
- psychosis or amnesia;
- a headache;
- involuntary defecation;
- involuntary urination;
- having a raspy voice;
- complaints of a stiff neck;
- neck swelling;
- small red spots on the neck or face, otherwise known as petechiae;
- linear injuries caused by an object used to strangle the alleged victim;
- bloodshot eyes that occur when capillaries rupture in the whites of the eyes; and
- abrasions under the chin.
Assault by Strangulation Penalties in Texas
Whereas a Class A misdemeanor can only result in up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. With assault by strangulation or suffocation, some of the most common consequences are actually long-term.
An assault by strangulation conviction on a criminal record can cause a person to experience numerous difficulties when applying for jobs, housing, or professional licensing. Felony convictions can also result in the possible loss of firearm rights.
Assault by Strangulation Defenses in Tarrant County
Many strangulation cases are difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt because the prosecutors do not normally have concrete evidence of the alleged strangulation. Alleged victims in some cases may exaggerate or outright fabricate strangulation or suffocation allegations.
In some cases, an alleged victim’s injuries could have been the result of something else besides strangulation. It could also be possible that an alleged offender had to place their hands on an alleged victim’s throat in self-defense or defense of others.
Assault by Strangulation Resources in Tarrant County
A closer look at strangulation cases | Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA) — View this TDCAA article discussing prosecuting strangulation cases without visible injuries. The article claims 10 percent of violent deaths in the United States are attributable to strangulation, and in the majority of these cases victims were women. Written after the law was changed in 2009, the article states: “This change in the law gives prosecutors a powerful new tool against abusers who strangle their victims. In the past, law enforcement often treated strangulation like a slap in the face, where only redness was present. With this change, law enforcement can now treat strangulation more in line with its serious nature. While the law was warranted, it has left most prosecutors with the difficulty of figuring out how to prove a felony-level assault beyond a reasonable doubt, without much evidence.”
To Protect and Serve: Law Enforcement’s Response to Family Violence — View a 2003 Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) brochure discussing how police respond to domestic violence calls, their initial contact with the involved parties, and preliminary investigations at the scene. You can also learn more about what happens when an alleged victim is an immigrant, how arrest decisions are made, and protective orders. The document also has information about protective orders, victim notification, and uniform crime reporting.
How to Improve Your Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation Cases — View a document originally authored by San Diego Assistant City Attorney Gael B. Strack and emergency physician Dr. George McClane in October 1998 but revised in May 1999. The article discusses the prosecutor’s perspective and the strangulation study. It also discusses the medical perspective, the training curriculum, and the use of forensic investigators and nurses at the time of the investigation.
Gus Barron v. State, 03-11-00519-CR (Tex. App. 2013) — On July 26, 2013, the Third Court of Appeals issued its decision in this case of a man who had been found guilty of two assault offenses—a standard assault charge and a strangulation charge—arising from the same altercation with a family member. The appellant raised six issues on appeal, contending that his convictions violate double-jeopardy prohibitions, that the trial court erroneously admitted hospital records and expert testimony about the behavior of victims, that the trial court erroneously let the State amend the indictment after the trial began, and erroneously failed to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor assault. The Court of Appeals sustained the double-jeopardy issue in part, reverses and dismissed the conviction for the standard assault charge, and affirmed the conviction for the strangulation charge, finding that the State was not required to elect the manner and means by which he committed the alleged assaults, there was no harm from the admission of medical records, there was no harm from the admission of expert testimony, there was no error in alteration of the indictment, and there was no error in omission of an instruction on a lesser-included offense.
Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) — The TCFV is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that “promotes safe and healthy relationships by supporting service providers, facilitating strategic prevention efforts, and creating opportunities for freedom from domestic violence.” View a PDF version of TCFV literature that discusses assault by strangulation offenses. You can learn more about the signs and symptoms of strangulation, terminology, and tips for advocates.
Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Assault by Strangulation Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
Were you or your loved one arrested for alleged assault by strangulation in Fort Worth or another community in North Central Texas? You are going to need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to overcome the criminal charges.
Make sure you do not wait to contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy. Call (817)-422-5350 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.