Just more than a month after Ohio passed a law making strangulation a felony offense, four people have been charged with the crime in Clark County.
Ohio was the last state in the U.S. to make the move, which gives prosecutors another tool to put away violent offenders, Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll said. He said strangulation is common in intimate partner violence cases, and charging a person with both felonious assault and strangulation gives a jury in a trial options and more specific details when reviewing a case.
“There have been numerous cases over the years where, especially in domestic violence situations, one of the things that we see in the report is that the assailant choked them or grabbed them around the neck and held them there,” Driscoll said.
The crime is a felony of the fifth- to second-degree, depending on the level of harm.
From July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, 112 people in Ohio were reported dead as the result of domestic and intimate partner violence, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. Intimate partner violence cases in which there is a history of strangulation are much 750% more likely to end in the victim’s death than cases without this form of violence, according to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.
Driscoll said before the law went into effect, prosecutors would charge people accused of strangling a person with felonious assault or assault, often along with other related violent charges.
“Most of those were part of a domestic violence case where you would also see some other type of injury. Whether the person was slapped, or kicked, or their hair pulled or something else, we were seeing those as part of the reports,” Driscoll said. “I think over the last few years, there’s been a push to get this law passed. We’ve seen it passed in other states, but we didn’t have it here, and I think this just gives us one more tool to use in these domestic situations.”
Until April 4, Ohio was the only state in the country to charge strangulation as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Under the law, felony charges of strangulation apply to cases in which a family member or significant other is involved.
In one Clark County case, a Springfield man is accused of picking his wife up by the back of her hooded sweatshirt, strangling her and dragging her across the room while she was holding their child in her arms, according to court records. Another Springfield man is charged with strangling his mother and slamming her into the kitchen counter and floor, and causing bruising to his grandmother’s arms when she attempted to get him away from her daughter.
It can sometimes be difficult to prove strangulation because it doesn’t always leave marks on the skin, but medical examinations have shown the seriousness of the offense, Driscoll said. Strangulation can easily lead to serious harm, like increased risk of stroke when blood clots form, brain injuries due to a lack of oxygen, death and more.
According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, half of strangulation victims have visible injuries. A person who was strangled can die days or weeks after the attack due to internal damage.
Driscoll said his office had an attorney who handles domestic violence cases go through training on prosecuting strangulation cases at the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association to help prepare Clark County for the new law.
“I think the numbers (of indictments) that we’re getting already show the need for this,” Driscoll said.