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The Impact of Minnesota's Felony Strangulation Law

In 1999 WATCH played a key role in the initiation of the Hennepin County Fatality Review Team, a collaboration of private, public and non-profit organizations operating in Hennepin County. This group’s first report highlighted the lethality of domestic strangulation in Minnesota. In response, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) with the assistance of WATCH and its member programs, pushed for the creation of a specific felony statute for domestic strangulation during the 2005 legislative session. With the passage of this law, Minnesota became one of six states (including North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Idaho) that have felony strangulation laws.

Statute 609.2247 went into effect in August 2005. Prior to the law’s passage, most domestic strangulation cases were charged as misdemeanors even though strangulation is one of the most dangerous forms of domestic violence and, according to the Hennepin County Fatality Review and other experts, is frequently a precursor to domestic homicide.

To better understand the successes and challenges faced in Hennepin County and other Minnesota jurisdictions, WATCH reviewed the first six months of the law’s implementation to assess its impact, particularly on victim safety and offender accountability.