Strangulation is a dangerous crime that can be hard to spot and that, until now, often flew under the radar in the criminal justice system.
While the popular view of strangulation is that of killers, like the Boston Strangler, the truth's different -- and a lot more chilling. Strangling is also used as a way to control a victim and make them submit to their attacker.
Without proper training, the signs of this crime can be hard to spot and sometimes they don't show up immediately. In some cases, strangulation can be fatal a day or more after an attack.
But thanks to two dedicated state troopers, Master Cpl. Carol Parton and Cpl. Stephen Fausy, it's a crime that's been brought into focus and that we're now addressing with both training and by making strangulation a felony crime in its own right.
Until now, the combination of strangulation's subtlety as a crime and its lack of status in the criminal code meant that this crime that can cause serious injuries to its victims was too often charged as a misdemeanor. To make their case, Parton and Fausy, who are assigned to State Police Troop 3, made a four-month study of strangulation cases in Kent County. More than half of the 33 reported cases of strangulation during that period wound up being prosecuted as misdemeanor offensive touching cases.
That's why I sponsored Senate Bill 197, which was signed last week by Gov. Jack Markell. Now prosecutors can attack strangulation as a felony in its own right. Under the law, people convicted of strangulation will face up to five years in prison. Repeat offenders, people whose attacks cause serious injuries to their victims or who use a deadly weapon while committing the crime will face up to eight years behind bars.
I'm grateful that my fellow legislators and Governor Markell took the time to listen and understand the threat this crime poses, then decided to act to make sure people who commit this crime will get proper attention from the criminal justice system.