October is domestic violence awareness month here in Maryland. Happily, a change in legislation has just come into effect concerning how certain offenses related to domestic violence are categorized. Advocates hope this change will aid survivors as they seek justice against those who subject them to abuse.
In the past, many states, including Maryland, classified strangulation as a misdemeanor crime. This had the consequence of resulting in less severe punishment for an abuser who strangled his or her victim. However, starting at the beginning of this month, strangulation is now considered a felony. Someone convicted of strangulation in the past would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison. With this new categorization, that person could face up to 25 years in prison.
Those who work with survivors say that this change will help authorities hold those who commit the offense accountable for their actions. All but two other states already classify strangulation as a felony, so there is precedent for this change that supporters say was desperately needed. Medical experts who weighed in at legislative hearings say that statistics show that strangulation may increase the severity of harm to which survivors may be subjected.
No matter what form domestic violence takes, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or financial abuse, it is a serious crime that deserves serious consideration. Whether a person is a victim or wrongfully accused of this type of offense, he or she is entitled to fair treatment by the legal system. Those on either side of this issue may want to reach out to an attorney here in Maryland who has a broad understanding of the nuances of this type of offense.