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Virginia strangulation defense addressed by Fairfax criminal lawyer

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Virginia strangulation defense- X-ray image of neck area

Virginia strangulation charges require a strong defense, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Virginia strangulation charges are damning, and the phrase “strangulation” overexaggerates the situation under circumstances where the allegation is for nothing more than the brief interruption of the blood flow or airflow in the alleged victim’s body. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I warn people that putting their hands on someone else’s neck during an altercation — and in plenty of other instances — risks not only being accused of assault but also of strangulation. What does the this statute prohibit?: “Any person who, without consent, impedes the blood circulation or respiration of another person by knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully applying pressure to the neck of such person resulting in the wounding or bodily injury of such person is guilty of strangulation, a Class 6 felony.” Virginia Code § 18.2-51.6. The foregoing statutory prohibition does not only criminalize complete choking off of respiration or blood flow, but instead the mere impeding of either one. Underlining how low a threshold is the foregoing definition is the recent unpublished Virginia Court of Appeals case of Commonwealth v. Jeremy Wayne Dodge, Record No. 0577-21-2 (Va. App., Feb. 22, 2022) (unpublished).

Can a Virginia conviction result from grabbing a person by the neck?

Jeremy Wayne Dodge was angry and came home while his wife was asleep, yelling about money he thought had gone missing. Virginia strangulation defendant Dodge grabbed his wife Melissa by “her arms and neck and threw her onto the bed.  Melissa got up and swung at appellant, but appellant grabbed her arms and her neck. Melissa testified at trial that appellant had one hand around her neck to restrain her and she ‘was having difficulty’ breathing as he applied pressure, although she did not lose consciousness. When asked whether the pressure to her neck made it difficult to ‘breathe or speak,” Melissa replied, ‘Yes.’” Dodge. In affirming Dodge’s strangulation conviction, the Virginia Court of Appeals underlined: “‘Impede’ is defined as ‘to interfere with or get in the way of the progress of.’ Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1132 (2002). It also means to ‘hold up,’ ‘block,’ and ‘detract from.’ Id. Thus, contrary to appellant’s assertion, the statute does not require the Commonwealth to prove that the victim’s ability to breathe or speak was completely restricted. Rather, pursuant to the ordinary meaning of ‘impede,’ the evidence must show that
appellant’s actions merely interfered with her ability to breathe or obstructed her breathing. Here, Melissa’s testimony that she had difficulty breathing and speaking when appellant applied pressure to her neck satisfies this element of the offense.” Dodge. 

What is the minimum bodily injury needed for that element of the Virginia strangulation statute?

The threshold is low for the prosecution to satisfy the bodily injury element of the Virginia strangulation statute. The Virginia Supreme Court, “has held that ‘”‘bodily injury” within the scope of Code § 18.2-51.6 is any bodily injury whatsoever and includes an act of damage or harm or hurt that relates to the body; is an impairment of a function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or is an act of impairment of a physical condition.'”‘ Ricks v. Commonwealth, 290 Va. 470, 479 (2015).” Dodge. 

How do I successfully defend myself against such a Virginia criminal charge?

Defending against a Virginia strangulation prosecution calls for a full court press. This starts with obtaining the essential evidence and discovery in the case, including issuing subpoenas for the alleged victim’s medical records, and enforcing compliance with the subpoena if not timely responded to. Obtaining a relevantly qualified criminal defense lawyer is vital, ideally with the lawyer already having substantial assault defense experience. With your lawyer, you can fully prepare any possible testimony you might present(that is, if you waiver your Fifth Amendment Constitutional right to remain silent in court), and fully develop and execute the rest of your defensive strategy. You can also engage in settlement negotiations through your lawyer, with the caveat that any settlement negotiations ideally will be backed up with the criminal defense side’s readiness to proceed to trial in the event that settlement negotiations do not yield a desirable nor acceptable result for the Virginia criminal defendant.

How soon should I hire a lawyer if prosecuted for alleged strangulation?

The sooner you hire a Virginia criminal defense lawyer for such a damning allegation, the better. A conviction for such an offense risks a possibly firm sentence, let alone being damaging to one’s reputation. The right criminal lawyer will fully review and analyze your case in order to advise you about — and to pursue — the ideal approach to defending you against such allegations.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended hundreds of people against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Once retained, Jon Katz is like a dog to red meat in your defense. Learn the critical defensive difference that Jon can make for your case, through a free in-person confidential consultation at our Fairfax County office, scheduled through our staff about your court-pending case, at 703-383-1100