NJ too lenient with abusers who choke partners, advocates say
TRENTON — New Jersey lawmakers could soon vote on a measure that calls for anyone charged in a domestic violence case where the victim has been choked to be held behind bars prior to their trial.
Under current state, law non-fatal strangulation, when it takes place in cases of domestic violence, is considered an act of aggravated assault punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Under bail reform laws passed in 2017, most criminal defendants are now released from jail prior to trial.
Nicole Morella, the director of public policy and communications for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, supports the proposed measure.
She said after someone survives being choked by their partner, “the most dangerous time for them is often after ... they’ve reported the violence, at a time when the defendant may be being held accountable by law enforcement or the court system.”
Morella pointed out that someone accused of choking a partner is seven times more likely to end up killing someone later.
In 43% of fatal domestic violence cases, the victim had survived a strangulation incident within a year of the homicide.
Morella said choking indicates an elevated risk of deadly force in the future so it should also signal “that we should be taking steps to help mitigate the potential of a higher risk scenario later on.”
She noted when a survivor has been choked, “oftentimes they will see the perpetrator increase their tactics of control and abuse.”
“They're so fearful of this person killing them that they may be reluctant to report it and they may be reluctant to seek out the services to get out of the relationship because they believe the threat that they’re going to be killed," she said.
The proposed legislation, S4186, is being sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex.
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