Claxton bill helps victims of assault
AUGUSTA — Legislation from Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, LD 779, “An Act To Improve the Definition of ‘Strangulation’ in the “Aggravated Assault Laws” received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. The bill would remove the requirement to prove intention from strangulation in aggravated assault cases.
“Strangulation is clear evidence of an escalating violent act by the abuser,” said Sen. Claxton. “If we are to protect the abused person and hold the abuser accountable, the severity of the progression to strangulation needs to be recognized for what it is and prosecuted.”
In 2012 the statute was amended to include strangulation. In that new language only strangulation was given a higher standard of prosecutors having to prove it was done intentionally. The culpable state of mind for all other types of aggravated assault are measured on if the action was intentionally, knowingly or recklessly perpetrated. Given that intent is hard to establish, proving intentional strangulation becomes harder.
In the fall of 2018 a work group by the Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse convened prosecutors from around the state, advocates, healthcare providers, attorneys, law enforcement and consultants to discuss the need to correct this structural flaw in aggravated assault statute. The clear result of the work group, surveys and discussion was that the structural flaw to the 2012 statute amendment should be corrected so that a higher standard is not set for strangulation versus other types of aggravated assault.
“LD 779 is intended to cure a structural flaw that currently exists in Maine’s aggravated assault statute, which sets out strangulation as the only circumstance within that statute that requires an actor to have intended to cause a specific result, whereas for all other types of aggravated assaults the standard is whether or not an actor, intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engaged in a behavior,” said Andrea Mancuso of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
The Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse, Maine Prosecutors Association and Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence all spoke in support of LD 779.
The bill faces more action in the committee and votes before the full Maine House and Senate.