SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – A proposal to make strangulation a felony in Utah is moving forward in the Utah State Legislature.
With unanimous approval from the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, H.B. 17 advanced during an emotional meeting. Thursday, the group met to discuss what advocates call a major ‘loophole’ in Utah’s Criminal Code.
“We’re one of only a handful of states literally that [does] not have on our books strangulation,” said Rep. Lowry Snow (R), Utah, who authored the bill.
Currently, the code has no statute that specifically defines the crime.
Lowry says any “act of impeding the breathing or blood circulation of another person by the use of unlawful force” is, no doubt, a form of felony aggravated assault.
Thursday, doctors, justice professionals, and strangulation survivors showed up to testify to that.
“I was assaulted downtown by my ex-husband in our car. I was strangled,” said Jennifer Gardiner, who fought for her life 11 years ago, after a horrific episode of domestic violence shattered every bone in the left side of her face.
“Everything flashed… You know that you’re in a fight for your own life,” Gardiner recalled.
Gardiner says she managed to get her ex-husband’s hands off her throat by a miracle. For weeks, she suffered in the intensive care unit, but the worst of her strangulation injuries did not set in until years later.
“I have chronic nerve damage that cannot be repaired. I take a medication that has made me gain 40 pounds,” she told the committee.
Gardiner says while no person should ever get away with attempted murder, too many do.
“There are ligature marks around your neck, and often… they go away in a short amount of time,” she explained.
That is why Gardiner and so many others are now celebrating, as lawmakers show they care, too.
“We’re really, really hopeful it’s going to go forward,” said Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition estimates this legislation could have saved as many as 11 lives in 2014, had it been in place. Advocates say they plan on seeing H.B. 17 through the entire legislative process.