Rise in Oklahoma City Protective Orders Exposes Risks of Domestic Violence by Strangulation

A recent increase in protective orders in Oklahoma City highlights the severe risks and legal consequences of domestic violence by strangulation. This increase underscores the disturbing correlation between non-fatal strangulation incidents and the likelihood of homicide. A recent news report indicated that the chance of victims who survive a strangulation incident being killed by their partner increases by a shocking 750%. Despite the high percentage of victims subjected to strangulation, challenges in reporting due to stigma and memory loss hinder police response. Oklahoma law recognizes strangulation as a serious felony, with strict legal definitions covering intimate partners and household members. Proving such cases can be challenging, requiring clear evidence of force and intent. In some cases, attempted murder charges may apply, emphasizing the gravity of the offense. Legal defense options are available for those accused, ensuring their rights are protected.

Oklahoma Strangulation Statistics and Impact

Domestic Violence Intervention Services in Tulsa disclosed that 70% of the people they serve have been subjected to strangulation. A challenge preventing police from responding to incidents of domestic violence has been a reluctance on the part of victims to report attacks.

According to police officials, one reason that incidents are underreported may be a stigma that makes people reluctant to come forward and identify themselves as victims of domestic violence. Another reason offered by the chief of police of Broken Arrow may be that victims do not know they were strangled. Depriving the brain of oxygen can have the immediate effect of causing a victim to lose consciousness. It also may cause some victims to experience memory loss upon regaining consciousness.

Domestic Abuse by Strangulation is a Crime in Oklahoma

Placing your hands on the neck of another person to prevent the victim from breathing is, at the very least, an assault and battery. However, Oklahoma created a separate category of assault and battery for incidents when a victim is subjected to strangulation or attempted strangulation by an intimate partner, family member, or member of the victim's household. The crime of domestic abuse by strangulation is a felony punishable by imprisonment for one to three years, a fine of no more than $3,000, or both. Repeat offenders face imprisonment of three to 10 years, a fine of as much as $20,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Legal Definitions and Relationships

An intimate partner for purposes of domestic violence and abuse prosecutions includes the following:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Couples who are or were in a dating relationship
  • Biological parents of the same child
  • Persons shared an intimate relationship while living together now or in the past

An intimate relationship, for purposes of the law, does not require proof that the parties engaged in sexual relations. Instead, the focus is often family or household members. For purposes of the domestic abuse by strangulation law, that category includes:

  • Parents, grandparents, adoptive and stepparents, and foster parents
  • Children, grandchildren, stepchildren, and adopted and foster children

Family or household also includes other people related by blood or marriage. The statute goes so far as to include people living in the same household even when they share no blood or marriage relationship.

Proof and Challenges in Prosecution of Domestic Abuse by Strangulation

Convicting someone of domestic abuse by strangulation requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused willfully and unlawfully attempted or offered to use force or violence. Evidence also must prove the accused used force or violence through strangulation or attempted strangulation against an intimate partner or family or household member. The burden of proving such evidence is often accomplished by showing bruising or red marks on the neck area. If those indications are absent, the prosecution will usually only have the complaining witness's word to support their allegations. This can become troublesome depending on the circumstances, as any individual with an axe to grind can easily discover that claims of contact with the neck and any obstruction of breathing will turn what would otherwise be a misdemeanor into a much more severe felony.

Attempted Murder in Domestic Violence Cases

In certain situations, a person accused of domestic violence by strangulation could instead be charged with attempted murder, provided prosecutors have the evidence proving each element of the offense. The key element would be an intent on the part of the accused to cause the death of the victim. There is a somewhat grey area here, though, as it is difficult to establish when someone is choking another person out of anger without the intent to kill them versus when that intent to kill actually occurs.

One could argue that the natural consequence of choking someone is to deprive them of oxygen. Since oxygen is necessary to sustain human life, anyone choking someone is attempting to kill that person. However, specific martial arts, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, teach blood chokes to neutralize an opponent. The intent is specifically NOT to kill the aggressor. While that is a valid argument and defense in situations such as self-defense or mutual combat, those background circumstances are not always present in a domestic situation. Moreover, suppose the male counterpart is accused of choking the female. In that case, there is often an allegation of an imbalance of power or strength that creates an assumption that whatever force the male exerted was not necessary to neutralize the female attacker.

Furthermore, the use of attempted murder charges in domestic violence cases may be unnecessary now that Oklahoma made the use of strangulation in domestic violence assault and battery cases a felony carrying longer prison terms and increased fines. There are still situations where the attack is so brutal and purposeful that the intent to kill becomes clearer.

Defending Against Domestic Violence Charges in Oklahoma

If you have been accused of domestic violence, including domestic violence by strangulation, contact the Adam R. Banner to schedule a free consultation. Learn how an experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and obtain the best possible results.

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