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Georgia lawmakers may consider tougher domestic violence law

Georgia lawmakers may soon consider a significant change to the state's domestic violence laws. A Georgia prosecutor along with domestic violence advocates in Athens wants the offense of strangulation to be charged as a felony. As it stands, strangulation or choking typically amounts to a simple battery charge.

A conviction for simple battery can result in up to one year in confinement.

The prosecutor says that the penalty does not fit the crime. He argues that a person can be killed by being choked, and the potential lethality of the crime means that it should be a felony. He plans to meet with state lawmakers to discuss revising the aggravated assault statute to include strangulation as a form of attempted murder.

If strangulation becomes a felony, it would be punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.

Many other states have already made choking a serious criminal offense.

Strangulation is common in cases of domestic violence, likely because it communicates that the abuser wants to be in control. It can be difficult for a victim to prove that he or she has been choked, because in many cases there are no signs of physical injuries. Nonetheless, those who have been strangled or are in fear of being strangled need to call the police immediately. It is also important to talk to a domestic violence lawyer about obtaining a restraining order.

Although the current penalties for choking are not very intense, police and family law attorneys can help victims protect themselves from suffering further harm at the hands of an abuser.

It is also important to note that in some cases, often during a divorce or child custody battle, false accusations of domestic abuse arise. Those who have been falsely accused of domestic violence should talk to their attorneys about possible legal defenses. Such accusations can make it very difficult for a person to obtain child custody and they can also result in criminal consequences.

Source: The Republic, "Northeast Georgia prosecutor, domestic violence advocates seek to make strangulation a felony," Joe Johnson, Nov. 30, 2013

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