Massachusetts Strangulation or Suffocation Laws

In Massachusetts, the strangulation or suffocation laws fall under chapter 265, section 15D of the Massachusetts General Laws.

It states the following:

“Whoever strangles or suffocates another person shall be punished by imprisonment in state prison for not more than 5 years or in the house of correction for not more than 21/2 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

Definition of Strangulation and Suffocation in Massachusetts

Under the statute, the definition of strangulation is: “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying substantial pressure on the throat or neck of another.”

The definition of suffocation is: “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by blocking the nose or mouth of another.”

Understanding Strangulation and Suffocation

If you have been charged with strangulation (a violation of G.L.c. 265, section 15D) then the court must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You applied pressure (a substantial amount) around the neck or throat of the victim
  • You interfered or stopped the circulation of the blood and obstructed their breathing
  • You intentionally performed the act of strangulation

It is further considered ‘aggravated’ if the following occurs:

  • You blocked the victim’s mouth or nose
  • You interfered or blocked the breathing and circulation of blood in the victim without any right or excuse
  • You acted intentionally

Aggravated strangulation or suffocation is where:

  • You have a prior conviction for suffocation or strangulation
  • You caused the victim serious bodily injury that posed a serious risk of death, loss of body function such as a limb or organ, or permanent disfigurement
  • You knew or should have been aware that the victim was pregnant. All circumstances should be considered in this situation
  • You knew there was an abuse prevention order or restraining order against you

Strangulation or Suffocation Charges 

It is not uncommon for charges of strangulation or suffocation to occur from a domestic dispute. Harsh punishment is often sought by police and prosecutors in such cases. Often related offenses occur simultaneously.

Related offenses are the following:

  • Attempt to murder (G. L. c. 265, §16)
  • Assault and battery on a family member or someone residing in the household ( G. L. c. 265, §13M)
  • Assault and battery (G.L.c. 265, §13A)

Possible Defenses to Strangulation and Suffocation

It is imperative that you seek the services of a skilled attorney to mount a possible defense to any strangulation or suffocation charges that you are facing. As your defense attorney we will examine all evidence to present a probable defense theory for your actions.

Perhaps you were acting in self-defense?  Maybe the alleged victim is lying. Your actions might not have been intentional.

At the time of strangulation or suffocation, perhaps the victim’s breathing, or blood circulation was not impaired or hindered. All the unique facts in the case must be carefully examined to build a strong defense.

Criminal Penalties Involved in Strangulation and Suffocation

A conviction for strangulation or suffocation involves up to 5 years in the Massachusetts state prison. You may also face 2-1/2 years in house or correction arrest or a potential fine of up to $5,000; in some cases, both will be imposed.

Aggravated strangulation carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Also, you might receive 2-1/2 years in house or correction arrest and a fine that reaches up to $10,000. The sentence falls within the District Courts final jurisdiction. Usually, the court will require enrollment in a certified batterer’s program.

Strangulation as Leverage

In many circumstances, a prosecutor will charge a defendant with strangulation as an attempt to get them to readily plead to a lesser domestic to avoid the far harsher strangulation charges. On the other side of the coin, if a defendant is being charged with attempted murder then their defense attorney may suggest making a plea to the lesser strangulation charge.

All circumstances are different, so having a skilled defense attorney will benefit a defendant in knowing which course of action is best.

If you are facing a charge of strangulation or suffocation charges in Massachusetts, contact skilled criminal defense attorney Gregory Oberhauser to schedule a free review of your charges. 978-452-1116




Attorney Gregory Oberhauser

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Gregory Oberhauser is the ONLY attorney in Massachusetts to be distinguished as an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist by the American Chemical Society!

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