Strangulation is a serious felony offense that can carry severe penalties if convicted in Virginia. You cannot afford to take the charges lightly, given the lengthy prison sentence and long-term consequences in your life that you face. You should immediately retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can explain what you can expect in your criminal case and will mount an aggressive defense strategy to fight the charges you face.
Five Elements of the Crime of Strangulation in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-51.6, strangulation is defined as intentionally impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying pressure to the throat or neck and causing a wounding or bodily injury. Strangulation is often charged with domestic assault in our commonwealth.
In Virginia, five elements must be proven for a person to be convicted of strangulation. Each one must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements are:
- Knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully
- Without the victim’s consent
- Stopped the victim’s blood circulation or breathing
- By applying pressure to their neck
- Causing a wounding or bodily injury
Element #1: The Pressure was Applied Intentionally
The first element is that the pressure was applied intentionally. This means that the accused meant to apply pressure to the victim's throat or neck. They could not have done it accidentally or unintentionally.
Element #2: The Accused Acted Without the Victim's Consent
The defendant must have acted without the victim's consent. The victim cannot have agreed to the pressure applied to their throat or neck. In certain circumstances, such as when engaging in sexual acts or martial arts, they could consent to the application of pressure on their throat or neck.
Element #3: The Pressure Impeded the Victim's Breathing or Blood Circulation
The third element is that the pressure impeded the victim's breathing or blood circulation. This can include causing the victim to lose consciousness or experience other symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, or nausea. The defendant cannot be convicted of strangulation if this element is not proven.
Element #4: The Accused Applied Pressure to the Victim's Throat or Neck
The next element of strangulation is that the accused applied pressure to the victim's throat or neck. The prosecutor can use the following evidence to prove this:
- Testimony of witnesses and the victim
- Markings or bruising on the victim’s neck
- Injuries to the neck or throat
- Symptoms of the lack of circulation or the ability to breathe, such as brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen
Element #5: The Victim Suffered Bodily Injury or a Wound
The victim must have suffered wounding or a bodily injury for strangulation to have been committed. The injury does not have to be severe. Mild bruising would be sufficient to prove this element of strangulation.
Penalties if You Are Convicted of Strangulation
If you are convicted of strangulation in Virginia, it is considered a Class 6 felony. The penalty for a Class 6 felony in Virginia is imprisonment for one to five years, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. The judge or jury has the discretion to reduce the punishment to a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500. Additionally, a conviction of strangulation will result in a criminal record, impacting your future job prospects, ability to obtain housing, and other areas of your life.
Attempted Strangulation in Virginia
Attempted strangulation occurs when an accused attempts to apply pressure to the victim's throat or neck but does not succeed in impeding their breathing or blood circulation. It is also a Class 6 felony with the same penalties as strangulation in Virginia.