More than 2,000 people were charged in the first 15 weeks a new strangulation law was in effect, according to a report released today by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Ninety-four percent of the suspects were men.
Police and prosecutors across the state have reported that the statute, which took effect last November, is an effective tool and has been particularly helpful in the fight against domestic violence. Before the law was adopted, suspects often faced charges of second-degree harassment, a violation, because there frequently are no signs of physical injury.
“These arrest numbers are staggering, and clearly illustrate the gap that existed in the Penal Law,” Sean Byrne, acting commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, said in a statement.
In the past, someone “could be strangled almost to the point of death,” but the alleged abuser frequently would not be punished because there were no signs of injury, said Amy Barasch, executive director of the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
Between Nov. 11 and Feb. 22, there were 2003 individuals were charged under the law, which established three offenses for strangulation, the report said. They are first-degree strangulation, a Class C felony; second-degree strangulation, a Class D felony; and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, a Class A misdemeanor. In 83 percent of the cases, the suspects were charged with the misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Sixty percent – 1,200 — of the arrests or arrests or arraignments were in New York City, and 40 percent – 803 – took place in the rest of the state. There was at least one arrest in every county except Cattaraugus, Hamilton, Lewis and Tioga.
The most arrests outside New York City were in Suffolk County, where there were 111. Other top counties were Erie, with 81; Nassau, with 77; Monroe, with 69; and Westchester, with 49. State Police made 78 arrests. There were more than 15 arrests in seven other counties – 42 in Onondaga; 32 in Schenectady; 31 in Oneida; 28 in Albany; 25 in Ulster; 18 in Broome; and 17 in Orange.