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What is the crime of strangulation in Virginia?

Strangulation is a relatively new crime in Virginia. It has only been around since 2012. Va. Code 18.2-51.6 defines the crime of strangulation as

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.

So the prosecution must prove 4 things to convict someone of strangulation:

  1. Without consent
  2. impede the blood circulation or respiration of another person
  3. By knowingly applying pressure to the neck
  4. Resulting in wounding or bodily injury

What does bodily injury mean?

Bodily injury is defined broadly. It does not mean that there's an observable injury. If the prosecutor can prove that you caused someone to black out, that would be enough to prove bodily injury. Bodily injury can also be an impairment of one of the body's functions. Strangulation is a relatively new crime, which means that courts have not had many opportunities to consider the question of what bodily injury means.

What's the penalty for strangulation?

In Virginia, strangulation is a class 6 felony. That means it's punishable by up to 5 years in prison. A common tactic of Virginia prosecutors is to charge someone with attempted strangulation if they believe that they cannot prove all the elements of actual strangulation. Attempted strangulation is also a class 6 felony. To prove attempted strangulation, the prosecution just has to prove that you intended to strangle someone and took steps toward that goal, but were unsuccessful.

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