By: Carroll County Times

CARROLL COUNTY, MD – Struggling to breathe, the world around you goes dark. Within seconds, you’re unconscious. Four minutes later, you could be dead. This is what can happen when a person is strangled.

Despite the serious nature and potential lethality of strangulation, in Maryland it is often not charged as a first-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

To commit first-degree assault in Maryland, a person must commit or attempt to commit an act with the intention of causing serious physical injury to another or commit assault with a firearm, according to Maryland code. While strangulation would seem to qualify as intent to cause serious physical injury to another, prosecutors say it can be difficult to prove because not all incidents leave obvious signs of injury. That lack of injury evidence can also make it difficult for police officers investigating the incident.

Studies have suggested that nonfatal strangulation is often a predictor for homicide in domestic violence cases. A study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine from 2008 notes that the risk of an attempted homicide increases seven times for women who have been strangled by their partner, and 43 percent of women murdered in domestic assaults had been strangled by a partner in the year prior.

Yet, because victims tend to survive strangulation with minimal visible injuries, it’s often not taken as seriously.

In Carroll County, the State’s Attorney’s Office and Westminster Police Department have partnered to offer training on the signs, investigation and prosecution of strangulation and domestic violence to public safety officers.

Because police officers are often the first ones on the scene, “it’s important they understand the potential lethality of strangulation in order to encourage victims to seek assessment by trained medical personnel,” forensic nurse Rosalyn Berkowitz told us at a recent training session.

We’re glad Carroll is offering this training to better educate law enforcement so they can help get domestic violence victims the help they need. But we’d like to see them take it a step further.

One of the presenters, Baltimore County police Officer Darrin Kelly, has been advocating to get Maryland to specifically include strangulation in the first-degree assault statute, thus far unsuccessfully.

We’d like to see law enforcement in Carroll join with him as advocates in Annapolis to push for that change in next year’s legislative session, and for Maryland legislators to seriously take up the cause of adding it to the first-degree assault statute or creating a separate strangulation statute.

Frankly, it’s absurd that such a lethal action does not have a penalty that fits the serious nature of the crime.

Click to See the Full Article Here: Editorial: Stronger Penalties for Strangulation Needed