Stephanie Sciandra, Albany Government Law Review Editor
On December 4, 2010, Gregory Chinnery of Albany was accused of assaulting his girlfriend, pushing her against a wall, and choking her until she lost consciousness. Had Chinnery been accused prior to the enactment of the Strangulation Prevention Act of 2010 (hereinafter the “Act”), he would have been charged with a harassment violation, or assault in the third degree at best. Instead, Chinnery was charged under a new New York State law that makes strangulation leading to injury or unconsciousness a violent felony.
Previously, victims of domestic violence who were strangled into unconsciousness had little recourse under the law.  When the Act went into effect on November 11, 2010, it escalated penalties for strangulation, making it a felony to choke someone resulting in injury or unconsciousness (even if no other injury is present), and a misdemeanor to choke someone without resulting injury or unconsciousness. Previously, even a misdemeanor assault charge was not applicable against a potential defendant who strangled his victim into unconsciousness if no serious injury or pain resulted; the only applicable charge was harassment in the second degree, a noncriminal violation.  The Act, which defines strangulation in the first, second and third degrees,  is already providing additional recourse for prosecutors of domestic violence, who frequently see strangulation used as a batterer’s weapon.