Trenton – In order to protect survivors of domestic violence while their assailants await trial, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today advanced legislation 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.”
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 act of domestic violence itself, but evidence is showing that it can also lead to escalating assaults, even murder,” said Senator Cryan, who previously served as Union County Sheriff. “The penalties should meet the crime and the courts should have the ability to protect survivors from escalating attacks. We want to prevent these assaults from being repeated or becoming 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.
“Someone 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, we must take these acts seriously and do all that we can to protect survivors from their abusers.”
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.