Voluntary Participation in Choking Game Is Not a Valid Defense to Battery
In Illinois, the crime of aggravated battery is considered a serious offense and is punishable as a third-degree felony. An Illinois Appeals Court reaffirmed this in a recent case where a minor was injured after participating in a choking game. Despite the age of the defendant and the victim’s consent to being “choked out” in order to induce unconsciousness, the court refused to accept the defendant’s defense of consent.
People v. Ford
In December 2012, 15-year-old T.B. and several other teenagers were at a friend’s house smoking cigarettes and marijuana. At some point during the day, T.B. allegedly gave the defendant, Michael Ford, who was also a minor, permission to place him in a choke hold in order to cause him to pass out. The two agreed that if T.B. tapped on the Ford’s arm, then he would release the hold. Ford proceeded to place T.B. in the hold, but he soon after tapped on the defendant’s arm. However, Ford did not release him, and, as a result, T.B. passed out, had a seizure, and eventually regained consciousness with a nosebleed. Ford was subsequently found guilty of aggravated battery.
Under Illinois law, a charge of battery can be elevated to aggravated battery when the defendant:
- Knowingly and without legal justification caused bodily harm to the victim;
- By knowingly strangling the victim.
“Strangle” is defined as the act of intentionally impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of an individual by applying pressure on a person’s throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth.
At issue before the court was whether existing law concerning aggravated battery should be modified to allow for the defense of consent. After reviewing the relevant statutes and legislative history, the court acknowledged that in a few specific instances, the legislature had allowed for the defense of consent in cases of aggravated battery. For instance, lawmakers created a consent defense for certain charges of sexual assault and for injuries that occurred as a result of a medical procedure. However, the court stated that the existence of such exceptions revealed that the intent of the lawmakers was not to create a defense of consent in other instances.
As a result, the court held that the societal interest in deterring participation in activities like choking games justified overriding the right to consent. This was true even though the victim in the instant case received relatively minor injuries. This was due to the fact that according to reports from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, activities of this nature have resulted in much more serious injuries on numerous occasions, including permanent neurological damage and even death.
If you or your child has been charged with an aggravated battery, an experienced attorney can help explain your legal options. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to schedule an initial consultation.