Exploring the Scope of North Carolina’s Strangulation Law

What do you typically think of when you hear the word “strangulation”? If you are like most people, the word probably triggers a mental image of hands around someone’s throat. Thinking forward to the aftereffects of strangulation, you might imagine bruises around a person’s neck, redness, scratches, or other visible signs of injury.

Although those are common results, it is not uncommon for a person to present with no external injuries after having been strangled. Rather, a person could potentially be suffering from serious internal injuries. If overlooked, internal injuries can result in severe or permanent conditions.

North Carolina’s strangulation law requires both that the perpetrator “strangle” the victim and inflict “physical injury.” This post explores the meaning of those elements, the potential issues that may arise in applying them, and the approach other jurisdictions take toward the crime of strangulation. The post closes with some observations about whether North Carolina’s current definition of strangulation adequately addresses the ways in which the crime may occur.

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