Strangulation becomes a felony crime in Maryland

October 1 marked the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the start of a new law in Maryland which makes strangulation a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors say the new law is aimed at holding abusers more accountable for their crimes.

Under the previous law, strangulation was punishable by prison time up to ten years. Now, as a felony, the maximum sentence is 25.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

At Frederick Health Hospital, a special unit evaluates victims and documents injuries potentially linked to domestic violence.

Pamela Holtzinger, a nurse in the unit says the consequences for someone who has been strangled once are dire.

“It increases the likelihood of these individuals dying as a result of domestic violence by 750 percent. That became a real wakeup call for us,” said Holtzinger. She was among many who testified at a legislative hearing that led to the law’s passing.

The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office also played a role in lobbying for the tougher penalties.

“If we can get [the victim] to a hospital, get some photographs taken of what injuries there may be to a trained eye then we're going to present that to a jury and hold that abuser accountable,” said Brett Engler, assistant state’s attorney.

Currently, only Ohio, South Carolina, and D.C. treat the crime as a misdemeanor.