Watch CBS News

Domestic Violence Victims Push For Strangulation Felony Classification

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)- There's a push at the state Capitol to make strangulation a felony crime. It is currently often charged as a misdemeanor and in some jurisdictions in Colorado, a municipal offense.

"It doesn't even make sense to me that someone can put their hands around your throat and say they're going to kill you and have that be a misdemeanor," says Danielle, a survivor of strangulation who asked that we not use her last name.

Ten times over a six month period, she says, her ex-boyfriend choked her until she lost consciousness and nearly lost her life.

Colorado Capitol State Legislature Generic
(credit: CBS)

"What I've learned in last few weeks is that I came very close (to death)... there is very likely brain damage."

And yet she says her ex was charged with a misdemeanor.

"He was sentenced to six months in Jefferson County and served two and half, I think, for good behavior. There were a lot of times no marks were left so you couldn't see. It was just no one's going to know, I can do this and there's no proof. They're not going to believe you."

Representative Mike Foote, a Democrat and prosecutor from Boulder, plans to change that. He's introduced a bill that would define strangulation as felony assault. He says while some jurisdictions charge strangulation as a felony now, it can be difficult to prove.

CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Rep. Mike Foote (credit: CBS)

"It requires expert testimony. It requires people to come in to talk about how hands can be a deadly weapon and how even though injury is not necessarily apparent it is still something that could cause serious injury," said Foote.

Foote says it is one of the most violent type of assault cases, "You literally have their life in your hands and as an offender that's something they like."

He says most cases involve domestic violence victims.

"In domestic violence assaults, it's about power and control. The offender has power and control over the victim and when the two are face to face and the offender has his or her hands around the victim's neck and is cutting off breathing that is the ultimate in power and control, when it comes to what the offender may think, and it's used quite often, unfortunately, in those circumstances and it does lead to serious bodily injury and unfortunately, at times, it can lead to death," said Foote.

Danielle says her offender has moved to another state and she is finally safe.

But, she plans to testify in favor of the bill, "I want other women to be safe. I want them to know you're not alone. You're not the only one this is happening to. I think it's incredibly important that this be looked at and made a felony offense."

The bill has its first hearing Tuesday. The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence is supporting it. Colorado is one of only twelve states where strangulation is not a felony. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.