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State Lawmaker from Broken Arrow Wants Stiffer Penalty for Domestic Strangulation

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A state House bill aims to more than triple the maximum punishment for strangling an intimate partner or family member.

House Bill 3371 is authored by Republican Rep. Ross Ford of Broken Arrow.

"If I was mad at you and I came over and strangled you, I could receive … up to life imprisonment. If I was mad at my spouse and I strangled my spouse, the most time I could receive in prison now is three years," Ford said.

Ford's bill would make the penalty for strangling an intimate partner or family member up to 10 years for a first offense and up to 20 years for subsequent offenses. It would also add the offense to the state’s list of violent crimes. That would mean people convicted of intimate partner strangulation would have to serve 85% of their sentences before they could be released.

"Domestic violence strangulation arrests has went up from 146 to 289. That’s a 97% increase. Something needs to be done to stop this," Ford said, citing statistics he said were from Tulsa.

Suzann Stewart runs the Family Safety Center in Tulsa. She told city councilors last year strangulation is a serious warning sign when it comes to domestic violence.

"Certainly, that is the No. 1 indicator of lethality. Strangulation can affect you 20, 25 years down the road, and you can die from a strangulation that occurred to you in your younger years," Stewart said.

Police say people who strangle their intimate partner are also more likely to assault police who respond to a domestic violence call.

HB3371 passed the House Judiciary Committee last week.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.