In 2009, the Texas Legislature amended the state's criminal statutes to make non-lethal strangulations a separately recognized felony offense. Prior to the change, they were lumped in with other assaults and were generally prosecuted as misdemeanors.
The new law was designed to target cases of domestic violence. Prosecutors saw non-lethal strangulations as somewhat of a bellwether - often, that particular act of violence indicates a turning point at which a violent relationship becomes more likely to result in death.
Three years in, it appears that prosecutors are not being shy about bringing felony charges in non-lethal strangulation cases. In all of 2009, Harris County prosecutors filed just 122 cases under the new law. By comparison, they filed 103 such cases in June 2012 alone.
Some criminal defense attorneys are worried that prosecutors are becoming a little too willing to prosecute offenders under the law. For example, since strangling often doesn't leave physical evidence behind, many people are convicted of felony charges on the victim's word alone. This can leave a wrongfully-accused defendant very little room to stand up for him or herself.
Defending Texas Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is taken seriously in Texas, and even misdemeanor cases can bring significant penalties. Further, because of the stigma surrounding domestic abuse, wrongfully accused people may have a hard time getting law enforcement to "take their word for it."
Because domestic violence is such a delicate issue, it is important to enlist the help of an experienced defense attorney. Going it alone is rarely a good idea.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Choking Law Aims to Stem Fatal Abuse," Erin Mulvaney, July 17, 2012.