Strangulation is a common feature in Partner or Family Member Assault cases in Montana and a new bill will change the way these crimes are treated under Montana law. The Bill, SB 153, was created by Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito and Attorney General Tim Fox.

"It's a bill that would make strangulation of a partner or family member a felony offense in the State of Montana," said Montana Attorney General's Office spokesman Eric Sell. "Right now, as the law stands, there's not a specific statute related to strangulation that distinguishes it from other forms of assault and that makes a hole in the law that doesn't allow victims the protection they need when their in an abusive relationship."

Currently, many counties treat strangulation cases as felonies, but Sell says the damage standard under current law means that some cases slip through the cracks.

"In order to become a felony, strangulation has to create a significant amount of damage to the victim for it to be charged as a felony, and that's often hard to prove," Sell said. "When strangulation creates damage it's often internal and it's not readily apparent, so, currently, it's a damage standard, as opposed to just the act of strangulation itself."

The bill is being carried by Senator Margie MacDonald from Billings and will be up for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary next week. Bills supported directly by the Attorney General have a very high likelihood of being passed in Montana.

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