Massachusetts G.L. c. 265, § 15D: Strangulation or Suffocation

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265, section 15D governs the crime of strangulation of suffocation. It provides as follows:

“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.”

The statute defines “strangulation” as “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying substantial pressure on the throat or neck of another” and “suffocation” as “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by blocking the nose or mouth of another.”

Elements of Strangulation or Suffocation

In order to convict a defendant of strangulation in violation of G.L.c. 265, section 15D, the government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant applied substantial pressure on the throat or neck of the victim.

  2. The defendant interfered with the circulation of blood or normal breathing of the victim without right or excuse.

  3. The defendant acted intentionally.

The government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of suffocation under the statute:

  1. The defendant blocked the nose or mouth of the victim.

  2. The defendant interfered with the normal breathing or circulation of blood without right or excuse.

  3. The defendant acted intentionally.

G.L.c. 265, section 15D provides that strangulation or suffocation is aggravated where:

  • The defendant had a prior conviction for strangulation or suffocation.

  • The strangulation or suffocation caused a serious bodily injury. A bodily injury is “serious” if it results in a substantial risk of death, a permanent disfigurement, or a loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb, or organ.

  • The defendant knew or had reason to know that the victim was pregnant. In determining whether the defendant knew or had reason to know that the victim was pregnant, all of the circumstances and reasonable inferences are to be considered.

  • The defendant knew that there was a restraining order or abuse prevention order in effect against the defendant.

Charges of strangulation or suffocation often arise from domestic disputes. Created by An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, it is a relatively new statute. Prior to G.L.c. 265, §15D, the government had the choice of charging a defendant accused of strangulation or suffocation with either attempted murder or assault and battery, and this statute created a new charging option. As with all allegations involving domestic violence, police and prosecutors in Massachusetts take strangulation and suffocation allegations very seriously and may seek harsh punishments.

Related Offenses

Offenses related to strangulation or suffocation, G.L.c. 265, §15D, include:

  • G. L. c. 265, §13M (assault and battery on a family or household member)
  • G. L. c. 265, §16 (attempt to murder)
  • G.L.c. 265, §13A (assault and battery)
Defenses to Strangulation or Suffocation Charges

Potential defenses to charges of strangulation or suffocation may be that the defendant acted in self-defense, that the alleged victim lied, that the defendant did not act intentionally, that the defendant’s conduct did not interfere with the victim’s normal breathing or circulation of blood, and more. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will carefully examine all of the facts of your case and build a solid defense.

Potential Penalties for Strangulation or Suffocation

If you are convicted of strangulation or suffocation in violation of G.L.c. 265, §15D, you face a punishment of up to 5 years in the state prison or up to 2 ½ years in the house of correction or a fine of up to $5,000, or both such fine and imprisonment. If you are convicted of one of the aggravated forms of strangulation or suffocation, you face imprisonment for up to 10 years in the state prison or up to 2 ½ year in the house or correction and a fine of up to $10,000. Though the penalty for aggravated strangulation or suffocation is up to ten years in the state prison, it remains within the District Court’s final jurisdiction. For any violation of G.L.c. 265, §15D or as a condition of a continuance without a finding, the court will order the defendant to complete a certified batterer’s program unless good cause is shown or the batterer’s program finds that the defendant is not suitable for the program. If the court does not order completion of a certified batterer’s intervention program, it must issue specific findings describing its reasons.

Massachusetts Strangulation and Suffocation Defense Attorney (617) 263-6800

Stephen Neyman has decades of experience defending persons accused of criminal offenses in Massachusetts. Attorney Neyman, a Boston-based lawyer, represents clients in courts throughout the Commonwealth. If you or someone you know has been accused of strangulation or suffocation or any other criminal offense, it is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. When your future is at stake, it is critical to retain a lawyer who will fight for you. Attorney Neyman aggressively defends his clients’ rights and is known for achieving outstanding case results. He prides himself on exceptional client service. If you would like to speak with Attorney Neyman about any criminal matter, call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at (617) 263-6800 or complete the online contact form. Attorney Neyman welcomes calls at all times, so do not delay.

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