The crime of domestic assault by strangulation is a serious felony level offense in Minnesota. Strangulation means "intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another." See Minnesota Statutes Section 609.2247. Strangulation can occur in three ways: (1) manual which is accomplished by the use of the hands; (2) ligature which involves the use of a rope or cord; and (3) strangulation by hanging.
Before you can be convicted of the offense, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an assault by strangulation was committed against a family or household member. The state will use any physical evidence available including photographic evidence of any injury to the neck including bruises, scratches, fingertip markings, hand print markings, and ligature marks. The symptoms of strangulation experienced by the victim are also used as evidence against an accused at trial including breathing and voice changes, problems swallowing, and behavioral changes like memory loss and hallucinations. The prosecutor will likely obtain a copy of a 911 tape to play to the jury to help establish the voice change and agitation in the victim.
The defense will need to focus on any psychological problems of the alleged victim and any motive she may have for fabrication including spite or an upcoming child custody battle. There may be very little physical evidence in the case as many acts of strangulation do not result in physical injury. The state may fail to call an expert witness to testify at trial and there may be no medical or physical evidence in the case to corroborate the testimony of the victim. Only a small percentage of victims ever seek medical attention for a strangulation injury. Any abrasions on the neck may have been the result of mutual combat or have the appearance of a rash. All of these factors may provide the pathway to an acquittal
If you or someone you know has been charged in Minnesota or Wisconsin with domestic assault by strangulation, please call Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Robert J. Shane for a free case evaluation at (612) 339-1024 or visit his website for more information on available defenses to a felony strangulation charge at www.criminallawyerminnesota.com.