A top executive at Erie Insurance, Bradley Postema, has been charged with strangulation after allegedly choking and assaulting a woman he was dating. According to the victim’s report, she was dating Postema and was at his house when he choked her and threw her to the ground. She reportedly lost consciousness for a short period of time. Although Postema’s preliminary hearing is not until the end of February, he is out on an unsecured bond and the insurance company has placed him on administrative leave for the time-being.
The story shows that although the strangulation law in Pennsylvania is still relatively new, these charges are laid very often. Pennsylvania has only had a strangulation law on the books for approximately three years. In the first three months of the new law being established, 100 people were charged. Stories such as the most recent one show that the prevalence of strangulation charges continues in the state.
Strangulation Charges in Pennsylvania
Prior to strangulation having a place in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, this offense was treated as assault or harassment. Today, Title 18, Section 2718 specifically addresses strangulation. The statute defines the offense as knowingly or intentionally interfering with the blood circulation or breathing ability of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck. Willfully blocking the mouth and nose of another person is also considered strangulation.
Physical injury is not an element of the offense, which means the prosecution does not have to prove that someone was actually hurt by strangulation. As such, a person only has to accuse another and they will likely face serious charges.
Penalties for Strangulation
When the two people involved in strangulation were not related and not living together, the offense of strangulation is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. However, there are certain elements of the crime that could cause it to be upgraded to a felony.
Strangulation is a second-degree felony if:
- It was committed against a family or household member
- It was committed by a caretaker against the person that was in their care
- The act was committed in conjunction with sexual violence, stalking, or human trafficking
For any of these crimes, strangulation is punishable by up to ten years in state prison. The crime is considered a first-degree felony if:
- The perpetrator was the subject of a Protection From Abuse order, or another protective order
- The perpetrator wielded a prohibited offensive weapon during the act
- The perpetrator has a prior criminal history of strangulation
When any of this criteria has been met, a person faces up to 20 years in prison.
Facing Charges? Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help
Like all domestic violence cases, defending strangulation charges comes with some challenges, mainly that the prosecution does not need to provide physical evidence. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers know how to overcome these obstacles to give you the best chance of success with your case. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online so we can start reviewing your case.