TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein and Senator Paul Sarlo that would strengthen domestic violence penalties when the defendant consciously or recklessly obstructs the victim’s breathing under certain circumstances was signed into law yesterday by the Governor.
“We have seen all too often the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against a spouse or partner get treated less severely than criminals who commit similar acts against strangers,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This has to stop. Domestic violence is not only a family issue, but a criminal issue that affects our entire community and strangulation is an act that the perpetrator knows can lead directly to death. We must penalize it as the heinous act it is and this law does that.”
“Strangulation is a serious act that can have severe physical and psychological consequences in victims of domestic violence and, in many cases, can be deadly. This law establishes increased penalties for aggressors,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic).
Under the new law, S-3209, 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, the person would be charged with aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault on a domestic violence victim under the circumstances described in the new law 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 new law would eliminate the presumption of non-incarceration for crimes committed under the circumstances set forth in the bill.
S-3209 was approved on October 5, 2017 by the full Senate with a vote of 34-0 and by the Assembly with a vote of 78-0. This act shall take effect immediately.