HILO — Big Island prosecutors may take more punitive action against perpetrators of domestic strangulation after more than 50 cases were recorded last year, authorities said.
Domestic strangulation is a felony crime in Hawaii punishable by up to five years in prison, but prosecutors could pursue higher charges, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported this week.
“Domestic violence perpetrators who use strangulation to silence their victims could be charged with attempted homicide,” said Dale Ross, Hawaii County’s first deputy prosecutor. “We will be evaluating these cases in the future to determine when (and) where that might be the appropriate charge.”
The number of strangulation cases appears to be on the rise, but there hasn’t been adequate tracking of past cases, prosecutor Mitch Roth said.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve gone through a lot of training,” Roth said. “This is one of the things that is a real determiner of lethality, so we’re taking these cases a lot more seriously. We beefed up training for us and for police.”
On average, about one new domestic strangulation case occurs each week on the island, deputy prosecutor Suzanne Tiapula said.
“Strangulation is, in fact, one of the best predictors for the subsequent homicide of victims of domestic violence,” Ross said.
Outward signs of strangulation are not always apparent on the victim, presenting an additional challenge to police and medical responders, said Denby Toci, program director at Child and Family Service in Hilo.
“You can’t always tell when you’re looking at the victim, and the effects and the symptoms can carry over after the initial event,” Toci said.
Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/