TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein that would strengthen domestic violence penalties when the defendant knowingly obstructs the victim’s breathing under certain circumstances was approved yesterday by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
“This legislation is needed because many studies have shown that homicides of victims of domestic violence are often preceded by an abuser’s act of strangulation,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By increasing penalties, we enhance protections for survivors of domestic violence while sending a serious message to those who commit these crimes that they will face severe penalties and not just a slap on the wrist.”
Under the bill, S-3209, simple assault would be upgraded to aggravated assault if the defendant knowingly, or recklessly obstructs the breathing or blood circulation of a person who meets the definition of a victim of domestic violence, by applying pressure on the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of such person, thereby causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.
Aggravated assault on a domestic violence victim under the circumstances described in the bill would be a third degree crime, punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years or a fine up to $15,000, or both.
Under current law a person is guilty of simple assault if the person attempts to cause or causes bodily injury to another. Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Under current law, there is a presumption of non-incarceration for a first offense of a third degree crime. The bill would eliminate the presumption of non-incarceration for crimes committed under the circumstances set forth in the bill.
The bill was approved by a vote of 5-0. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.