DAPHNE, Ala. (WALA) – If you look at the most recent case of reported strangulation in Daphne, Keith Johnson’s arrest for felony domestic violence is a relatively new event.
Police said just a few years ago, the accusation against Johnson wouldn’t have risen to the level of a felony. That’s when many law enforcement agencies around the country agreed something needed to change.
“They were neither falling under the felony assault statutes that require the use of a weapon or the felony assault statutes that require a serious, visible injury. And there was recognition that that is a serious type of assault. To strangle someone is a serious type of assault,” Sgt. Brian Gulsby with Daphne police said.
Gulsby said Daphne police have only used the felony charge a half a dozen times at this point. But he said it’s useful to illustrate the severity of the crime.
“By providing us with the ability to charge with a felony, the potential penalties are more severe, bonds are higher, you know, the entire things takes on a more serious undertone,” Gulsby said.
Joanne Sheils serves as the executive director for the victim advocates group, The Lighthouse. She said while there isn’t enough data to know if the felony charge can be directly related to reducing the number of repeat offenders, it is an important step.
“Weight behind laws and weight behind sentencing can’t be a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to hold people accountable for their behavior and I would like to see more of it,” Sheils said.
“We know that an abuser that is willing to strangle his victim, is more likely to eventually commit a domestic homicide. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent with these more serious charges,” Gulsby said.
According to Alabama law, a Class B felony, like strangulation, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. As for Johnson, he’s currently being held on a $5000 bond.