In a unanimous vote the Tennessee legislature passed and sent on to Governor Bill Haslam a bill that increases the penalty for strangulation in Tennessee.
The bill sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) adds attempting or intending to cause bodily injury to another person by strangulation to the definition of aggravated assault and defines strangulation as “intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by blocking the nose and mouth of another person”.
“Almost half of all domestic violence homicide victims have experienced at least one incident of attempted strangulation prior to lethal or near lethal violent incidents,” said Speaker Woodson. “Victims of prior attempted strangulation are seven times more likely of becoming a victim of homicide. These alarming facts show the need for earlier intervention by strengthening our laws on attempted strangulation.”
Prior to the new legislation strangulation was often treated as a less severe form of assault. “This legislation gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools to adequately handle the severity and danger of strangulation for victims and makes it possible to prosecute the crime of strangulation as a felony”, said Representative Haynes. “All too often in cases of domestic violence, abusers turn to strangulation as they escalate violence, but strangulation often leaves no visible injury and has not been treated as the serious and dangerous crime that it truly is”. The State Senate approved the bill by a 29-0 vote while state representatives approved it 83-0.
“This legislation is a powerful tool for intervening in a potentially lethal form of domestic violence and preventing it from intensifying,” Russ Jensen, Community Coalition on Family Violence Co-Chair, said, adding that injuries could manifest days after an attack. “People just don’t realize that hands can be as deadly as any other weapon when placed around someone’s airway. There are only two reasons to grab someone by the throat, to control them, or to kill them.”
“We are very thankful to Representative Haynes and Senator Woodson for leading the way on this important legislation. This never would have come to pass without their vision and leadership” Jensen continued.
The Bill now awaits Governor Haslam’s signature and is scheduled to take effect July 1.