Felony Assault by Strangulation
North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-32.4 sets forth the crime of “Felony Strangulation.” It may also involve formal accusations of “Assault Inflicting Physical Injury by Strangulation.”
It is a felony offense and it is ordinarily considered a serious criminal charge.
The State carries the Burden of Proof in criminal charges. Regarding strangulation charges, they most show to the satisfaction of the Finder of Fact that:
- There was an Assault or Assault and Battery
- The assault resulted in a “strangulation”
- The defendant strangled the alleged victim, causing physical injury
Strangulation involves applying sufficient pressure to the victim’s neck such that the airway may be blocked or blood vessels are closed, cutting off blood supply.
The resulting physical injury must constitute more than mere physical contact with the throat or neck. Loss of consciousness is not required.
Physical injuries that can result from strangulation can include evidence of:
- a. Eyeballs
- b. Eyelids
- Drooping of the Face
- Raspy Voice
- Sore Throat
- Loss of Consciousness
The Defendant and her boyfriend get into an argument. They both push each other in the chest and upper body area. During the pushing, the Defendant’s hand pushes against her boyfriend’s throat area. Her fingernail scratches the left side of his throat, leaving a mark and slight bruise.
When police arrive they see the boyfriend’s throat. The boyfriend explains he and the Defendant had been pushing each other back-and-forth. He does not want charges brought against his girlfriend.
The boyfriend explains the scratch was incedental to the pushing and at no time did the Defendant place her hands around his throat. The boyfriend cold breath at all times, no blood supply was restricted, and he remained conscious after getting scratch.
The boyfriend also admitted to punching his girlfriend, the Defendant, with a closed fist, causing a black eye.
The responding police arrest the boyfriend for Assault on a Female, a class A1 Misdemeanor criminal charge in North Carolina. They also arrest the defendant for Misdemeanor Assault, a Class 2 Misdemeanor, and Felony Assault by Strangulation, a Class H Felony criminal offense.
While it may be possible for both the Defendant and her boyfriend to be convicted of assault charges, a criminal prosecution for Felony Strangulation would in the fact-scenario as presented, be difficult to prove.
The State’s Burden of Proof necessitates evidence beyond mere physical contact with the throat and/or neck region of the alleged “victim.”
Indeed, incidental contact with the throat resulting in a visible scratch mark and minor bruising, while possibly enough for simple assault / assault and battery charges in North Carolina, likely would not support a conviction for Felony Strangulation charges.
The Defendant gets into a drunken bar fight while visiting the Outer Banks. The victim started the fight that results in both the Defendant and the “victim” rolling on the floor of the bar.
After suffering numerous blows to the face, the Defendant gets the better of his adversary and places him in a choke hold. Fans of mixed martial arts would know it as a “rear naked choke hold.” While the victim continues to struggle, occasionally punching Defendant in the face and the back of his head, the Defendant applies enough force to cause the victim to lose consciousness. Once the victim is unconscious, the Defendant gets off the floor and sits on a nearby bar stool to gather his breath.
The victim “wakes up” after being “choked out.” He suffers no permanent injury or damages. Indeed, the victim again attacks the Defendant until such time as bouncers in the bar break up the fight and hold the victim for the police. Police take the victim to the hospital for observation, also charging him with a Criminal Summons for affray, misdemeanor assault, resist, obstruct, and delay and public intoxication.
The defendant may in the above fact-scenario claim he acted in self-defense. While the defendant did “choke out” the alleged victim, there was no resulting physical bodily injury. The State may seek an indictment for felony assault by strangulation charges, an Outer Banks jury may have questions regarding the nature and circumstances of the offense.
Felony assault by strangulation in North Carolina may involve two separate and distinct levels of punishment. In the event the strangulation results in serious bodily injury, the punishment may be that as a Class F felony.
Otherwise, without the infliction of serious bodily injury, the punishment would ordinarily be for the lower-level, Class H felony in North Carolina.
Serious Bodily Injury are may involve things such as:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Injury or Injuries that create the risk of death
- Permanent impairment or loss of a bodily organ or member
- Protracted impairment or loss of a bodily organ or member
- Injury that results in prolonged medical hospitalization
- Waiver of Probable Cause
- What is an Indictment?
- What is a Criminal Summons?
- North Carolina General Statute 14-33 Assault on a Female
Danny Glover is an experienced OBX criminal lawyer. If you’ve been accused of assault charges, whether felony or misdemeanor, we recommend you schedule an immediate consultation.
"Legal consultations are free of charge. If you face serious assault or felony strangulation charges, it’s a good idea to begin your defense immediately."
- Danny Glover
Our Outer Banks law firm helps people with legal issues in the community, including:
- Currituck County
- Camden County
- Hyde County
- Dare County
- Elizabeth City
- Carova Beach
- Nags Nead
Call Danny Glover at 252-299-5300
You may also reach Danny personally by email: Danny@DannyGloverLawFirm.com