Two men are in jail in Missoula after being charged under a newly created felony strangulation law passed during this year's Montana legislative session.
Justin Wayne Corbine, 28, and Matthew James Boland, 40, both are charged with felony strangulation of a partner or family member.
Montana joined more than 40 other states that already had some type of strangulation criminal laws in mid-May when Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 153, which was sponsored by Sen. Margaret MacDonald, D-Billings.
Previously, strangulation in Montana was prosecuted under various assault statutes. In Missoula, this often took the form of felony aggravated assault, but the standard to file that charge involved the victim either receiving serious bodily injury that could be documented, or being able to testify that they were in fear of such injury.
The new strangulation law provides a clearer definition, saying simply that the crime is the action of impeding a person’s breathing or circulation by applying pressure to the neck or throat or by covering someone's nose or mouth. The new law only applies in cases where the victim is a partner or family member of the defendant.
Passing a specific strangulation statute, or amending laws to make prosecuting strangulation more straightforward, was a recommendation of the 2015 Montana Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission.
A first conviction under the new partner or family member strangulation law has a maximum penalty of five years in prison as well as monetary fines. Additional convictions under the law have a mandatory prison sentence of two years and up to 20 years.
According to an affidavit filed with Corbine’s charging documents, Missoula police were called to a home shortly before midnight Saturday after neighbors heard a woman inside crying and asking for help and called the police.
The woman answered the door and came outside. She told officers she and Corbine been arguing when he began to throw things in the home at her, the affidavit said. At one point, Corbine allegedly wrapped the woman’s hair around her throat, making it difficult for her to breathe.
Corbine was in the home and was arrested.
Boland was arrested Sunday after an incident at an apartment complex on Milwaukee Way shortly after midnight when his wife reported he had strangled her to the point where she couldn’t breathe, according to court documents. Officers reported the woman had small purple and red bruises about the size of fingertips around her neck.
Both Corbine and Boland are being held on $25,000 bail.