If you choke your spouse or significant other out of anger, you could be looking at some serious time behind bars. State lawmakers passed a bill this session—HB 911—that makes strangulation an aggravated assault charge, a felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years behind bars. Strangling a child during a rape could get you 25 to 50 years in prison.
Lawmakers are using the bill to get tough on domestic violence and assaults in general.
“Standing laws are already in place for professional boxers or martial arts black belts where their hands are considered deadly weapons, but this addresses assaults, which typically result in misdemeanor charges,” said State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), who authored the bill.
Lawmakers say they expect the bill to take effect in July, when other new laws take effect.
DeKalb Solicitor General Sherry Boston applauds the new bill.
“I have been lobbying for this bill because it strengthens laws against domestic violence. Under current law, perpetrators often do not face penalties for strangulation assault, or if they do, the charge is typically filed as a misdemeanor offense,” said Boston. “This new law could make it easier to prosecute and bring stronger penalties for strangulation.”
Statistics from the Georgia Commission of Family Violence show that strangulation assaults are highly dangerous and potentially lethal. In a recent study, results showed that 44 percent of victims served by Georgia’s state-certified domestic violence programs have been strangled and victims of prior attempted strangulation are eight times more likely to be killed by the same abuser.
Before taking office as a state representative in 2013, Ballinger worked as a victim’s advocate at the Cherokee and Forsyth County District Attorney Offices. In that role, she says she deal with many domestic violence cases.
“The bill will help D.A. offices, prosecutors, attorneys, the chief of the police, basically everyone in law enforcement, because we see so many cases where the victim comes into the offices to follow up on reports but by then all the bruises and marks on the neck are gone,” said Ballinger
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) said she was glad to see the bill go through with no opposition .
“This bill is critical for domestic violence in the state. Before the bill, there was awareness but we needed to raise the bar on this issue. I really think it will be a useful tool in deferring violent actions among couples,” said Oliver, who has more than 30 years as a probate and divorce attorney.