Houston prosecutors have seen an uptick in recent weeks in the number of felony charges against people who choke victims during an attacks, several years after state lawmakers passed a law to stiffen penalties for the offense, the Houston Chronicle reports. Alleged gang member Fernando Morales, 28, is one of at least 10 people this week charged with assault of a family member, impeding breathing. The victim is usually either a girlfriend or family member strangled during an argument or attack. Before a 2009 law, it was difficult to put the offenders in jail for such actions.
In 2009, penalties for assaulting a family member by choking or impeding breathing became more severe, raising the offense level to a third degree felony. In the first six months of this year, there have been approximately 40 percent more cases filed under this statute than in the same time period last year, said Donna Hawkins of the Harris County District Attorney's office. “As people become more aware of the dangers of cutting off a person's air supply, it is more likely that victims will report this offense, police will arrest defendants, and prosecutors will file these charges,” she said.