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Ruiz, Cryan, Cunningham Bill to Protect Survivors of Domestic Violence Goes to the Governor

Trenton – In order to protect survivors of domestic violence while their assailants await trial, the Assembly today sent legislation to the Governor sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Joe Cryan and Senator Sandra Cunningham to increase the penalties for strangulation when employed in a domestic violence incident.

“Almost half of all domestic violence homicide victims had previously been strangled by their partners. The action is a dangerous signal of escalating violence which leads, oftentimes, to death,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Yet, as it stands, many individuals charged with assault by strangulation are released back into society. We have a responsibility to survivors to take these statistics seriously, to read these warning signs and to implement measures to protect them – that is why this legislation is so important and why I am so eager to see it signed into law.”

The bill, S-2503, would increase strangulation committed in the domestic violence context to a crime of the second degree, punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Under current law, it is a third-degree crime, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

“Strangulation is a brutal and violent attack that is horrifying to victims,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union), who previously served as Union County Sheriff. “These attacks are often acts of domestic violence that escalate if they are not prevented and stopped. The courts should have the ability to protect survivors from repeated attacks before they become tragically fatal.”

There is a presumption of imprisonment for second-degree crimes. Elevating the offense makes it more likely that the perpetrator will be removed from society both while they await trial and once they are convicted, thus increasing the safety of the survivor.

“An individual strangling their partner is a terrifying indicator of escalating violence, which oftentimes can be fatal,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “When survivors of domestic violence come forward and retell what was likely the scariest moment of their life, we must take those incidents seriously and do all that we can to protect them while their abusers await trial.”

The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 33-0 in January and today unanimously passed the Assembly and was sent to the Governor for final approval.