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New bill to increase penalties on strangulation cases could impact survivors

Only 50 cases in Lane County were considered felonies.

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 6:03 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 6:37 PM

SALEM, Ore. -- State lawmakers are considering a new bill that would increase the penalties in some strangulation cases. 

Senate Bill 1562 would make strangulation in domestic violence cases a Class C felony if the victim is a member of the family or household. It also expands the legal definition of strangulation.

Under current law, these cases are often treated as misdemeanors. Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow said that the current law undermines the crime. 

"To say that cutting off someone's airway in a power and control move was a misdemeanor really belittles the significance of what you have done to another person," Perlow said.

Experts said strangulation crimes happen more often than people think. In fact, in 2017 there were 190 cases of strangulation in Lane County Circut Court. Of those, 166 were domestic violence cases. Of the 166 domestic violence cases, only 50 were felonies. 

BB Beltran, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Support Services, or SASS, said the new bill could have an impact on survivors. 

"I think for survivors that would mean justice. That would mean public acknowledgment by the system that this is a serious crime and that there is accountability for when folks commit crimes," Beltran said.

Beltran said she hopes the bill passes. 

Perlow said these cases are often difficult to pursue if the offender doesn't have any prior convictions. She said the bill could help change that.

The bill will now head to the house.

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