December 5, 2021

Strangulation isn’t considered a felony in Ohio

Strangulation is not considered a felony in the state of Ohio, and recent events have brought awareness to that fact.

The recent death of Gabby Petito is shining a light on domestic violence across the nation.

On Oct. 19, over a month after Gabby Petito went missing, an autopsy confirmed Petito had been killed by strangulation. 

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said the cause of death was “manual strangulation/throttling.” Dr. Blue explained that “throttling” means that strangulation was done with human hands and not a weapon.

Strangulation is one of the most common forms of domestic violence and can lead to unconsciousness within seconds and death within minutes.

In most states, strangulation is a felony charge, but in others, it is only a misdemeanor. Currently in Ohio, strangulation is deemed a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.

In Maryland, a person who strangles someone else can be charged with a first-degree assault, defined as causing serious physical injury, but the charge can also be reduced to second-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor.

D.C. considers it as a misdemeanor simple assault, unless the attack caused serious injury or an object was used to strangle the victim.

Along with Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Ohio, South Carolina is the only other jurisdiction that does not specifically treat strangling as a felony.

Lawmakers in Ohio have attempted to make strangulation a felony in Ohio. In 2016, then-State Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) proposed legislation that would make strangulation a first offense a third-degree felony. Kunze and State Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Cleveland) proposed another bill to increase penalties.

Last year, there were 131 domestic violence fatalities in Ohio, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. That is a 20 percent increase from the previous year and a 62 percent increase from two years ago, staying consistent with national trends reporting a spike in intimate-partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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