Choking or suffocating during or after an argument with a family member, household member, or a former intimate partner is treated very seriously in Texas. The State will throw the weight of its resources behind these types of cases in order to render a conviction. It's not simple domestic assault, which is typically charged as a Class C misdemeanor. In fact, domestic violence involving choking or suffocating is a third-degree felony. That means considerably more time behind bars and fines. Here's what you need to know.
What is a choking allegation in a family violence case in Texas?
A choking allegation made during a family violence event is a criminal accusation. It can result in a third-degree felony, and a conviction carries a prison sentence of between two and ten years. It is also accompanied by a fine of up to $10,000.
If the choking allegation is a second or subsequent one, then the offense is charged as a second-degree felony. A conviction of a second-degree felony carries a sentence of imprisonment between two and twenty years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Why isn't choking the same thing as bodily injury as it pertains to assault cases in Texas?
When a person is accused of domestic assault and caused bodily injury to the alleged victim, this type of assault is also not charged as a Class C misdemeanor. It is, however, charged as a Class A misdemeanor, which is still more serious than a Class C but not as serious as a third-degree felony. That matters. Because a felony is accompanied by harsher sentencing as well as collateral consequences that don't accompany a misdemeanor charge, like the loss of voting rights.
Many people often wonder why choking isn't considered a bodily injury and thus charged as a misdemeanor. Bodily injury in domestic assault cases does not require a bruise or cut but only requires physical pain. In that sense, choking is bodily injury. Choking may not leave a trace but the memory and pain of it, so why is the offense charged as a felony in Texas?
Choking is considered an important risk factor for the homicide of women. The Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study in 2007 stating the same. Since that time, most states have passed legislation making choking during domestic violence events a harsher offense than other alleged acts of domestic violence.
Can a choking allegation be defended against successfully in the Dallas-Fort Worth area?
Choking allegations like all other domestic violence allegations can be defended against. Much of the defense comes down to the facts and circumstances. The evidence may be convincing, i.e., pictures and medical records indicate choking occurred.
In many cases, however, there is no indication but the alleged victim's word that choking ever occurred. With the help of an aggressive domestic violence attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can succeed at creating enough doubt. Remember: you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must prove its case or else you could be acquitted. It's always important to discuss your case with an experienced domestic violence attorney before you settle via a plea deal, which is often the state's strategy in many of these cases.