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New law being used by county's attorney's office

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POLSON – A new state law has resulted in the Lake County Attorney’s office filing multiple strangulation charges. 

Deputy county attorney Brendan McQuillan said that prior to the strangulation law taking effect on Oct. 1, the state had to use partner family member assault, aggravated assault or criminal endangerment statutes. 

“It wasn’t a perfect fit and was hard to prove. You’d have to bring in experts,” he said, referring to prior strangulation incidents. 

The new strangulation law is used in cases where one purposely applies pressure to the throat or neck of the partner or family member or blocks air flow to the nose or mouth of the same. 

A first offense can result in incarceration up to five years or a fine up to $50,000. 

A second or subsequent offense will result in a mandatory prison term of at least two years or up to 20 years and a fine of up to $50,000. 

The law also requires a person convicted of such a crime to pay for and complete a counseling assessment. 

“People who do this are much more likely to kill the victim,” McQuillan said. 

In a lot of the cases that he’s seen, it wasn’t the first time the victim had been strangled. 

Since Oct. 1, the county attorney’s office has filed more strangulation charges than partner family member assault charges, he said. 

“It’s really common in the community,” he said. “It can cause blood clots and long-term damage. People don’t realize how dangerous it is.” 

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Margaret MacDonald, D-Billings. It passed the Senate 43-6 and the House 90-10 before being signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock earlier this year. 

State Reps. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, and John Fleming, D-St. Ignatius, voted for the bill, while George Kipp III, D-Heart Butte, voted against it. State Sens. Daniel Salomon, R-Ronan, and Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, voted for it. 

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