What exactly does the following code mean:
ASSAULT FAM HOUSE MEM IMPEDE BREATH CIRCULAT
When a person is in custody for this offense, the Travis County Sheriff’s jail inmate list usually displays the same offense description code as it would in a misdemeanor Family Violence assault case. The cause number reveals whether or not the case was filed as a misdemanor. Felony cause numbers start with “D1DC” and misdemeanor cause numbers start with “C1CR.”
What is a choking or strangulation allegation in an assault case?
Under a relatively new Texas law, a physical fight that historically could have resulted in a misdemeanor assault case may now be filed as a third degree felony if there is an accusation that the suspect choked, strangled, suffocated, or otherwise impaired the breathing or circulation of another person AND the alleged victim is a family member, roommate, or person with whom the suspect was romantically involved.
If the suspect and alleged victim had merely been friends, acquaintances, or strangers, then a conviction based on the same alleged behavior would carry a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail, but since domestic violence is involved, the maximum punishment in increased to ten years in the state penitentiary.
If the suspect has previously been convicted of (or placed on deferred adjudication for) any type of assault against a family member, roommate or person they were dating, then the person may be charged with a second degree felony with a maximum punishment of twenty years in the penitentiary. This enhancement applies even if the prior assault was only a Class C misdemeanor assault by contact or threat.
What is the legal definition of choking?
The Texas Penal Code says an assault is subject to felony enhancement when:
the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.
Why do the police add a choking enhancements?
Employees of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office have been aggressively training officer of the Austin Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies to look for signs of choking in domestic assault cases. The training seems to be working too well as we have seen cases of officers leading or coaching alleged victims to make statements that justify a choking allegation. We have also seen accusations of suffocation that involve only incidental contact with the mouth during a struggle. The number of choking assault cases filed in Travis County has been growing steadily since the choking law went into effect in 2009.
APD officers are trained use a Strangulation Supplement form to ensure that no clues are missed when investigating an assault case where the suspect is accused of impeding the breath or circulation of the alleged victim. This is not necessarily bad for the defendant because a clever criminal defense attorney may be able to turn the tables and use the very same form to highlight how many expected clues of strangulation were absent. This is especially true in cases where officers coached the alleged victim to make statements to justify an arrest.
Accusations of Serious Strangulation or Serious Bodily Injury
When there is evidence of actual serious strangulation, law enforcement will often charge a defendant with aggravated assault and allege that the suspect used his hands as a deadly weapon. When this happens, the Travis County jail inmate list may show the offense description as ASSLT INT/RECK IMPED. Aggravated assault may also be charged when the alleged victim suffers serious bodily injury. Depending on the circumstances, aggravated assault may be a first or second degree felony.
Please see my Assault Family Violence FAQ page for more information.