Defense Attorney explains Strangulation charges in New York
New York state's Penal Law Chapter 121 contains the strangulation-related
charges. These charges often arise in cases that prosecutors would describe
as involving domestic violence (a crime committed by a person against
his or her romantic partner). They also frequently stem from bar fights
or brawls in which one person allegedly puts another person into a headlock
The lowest level offense in this chapter is Penal Law Section 121.11, entitled
Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation. A person is guilty
of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation when, with intent
to impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another
person, he or she:
a. applies pressure on the throat or neck of such person; or
b. blocks the nose or mouth of such person.
Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation is a class A misdemeanor,
meaning that it is punishable by up to one year in prison. Notably, no
injury or loss of consciousness need be proven to convict someone of this
charge. We have seen numerous cases in which people tried to "shush"
screaming people by covering their mouths, only to find themselves charged
with this crime. Also, sometimes people get charged with this crime when
they did nothing but attempt to defend themselves by pushing against the
throat of their oncoming attackers. (Obviously, there is a defense to
all of these charges that the defendant performed such conduct for a valid
medical or dental purpose (121.14)).
The class A misdemeanor charge can be "elevated" to a felony
based on aggravating factors. For example, the next charge in the chapter,
Penal Law Section 121.12, entitled Strangulation in the second degree,
makes it a Class D felony to commit the crime of criminal obstruction
of breathing or blood circulation, as defined in section 121.11 of this
article, and thereby cause stupor, loss of consciousness for any period
of time, or any other physical injury or impairment. Thus, causing someone
to "black out," even for a second, or causing them pain to their
neck or throat, can elevate the charge to a felony that carries potential
state prison time.
Oftentimes, someone charged with this crime will also be charged with a
crime such as Assault in the Third Degree from Chapter 120 of the Penal
Law. What is interesting to note about these charges is that if you punch
someone in the face four times and cause him to have black eyes and a
bloody nose and lip, your maximum charge is likely Assault in the Third
Degree, a class A misdemeanor, but if you put someone in a headlock and
scratch his throat, you are probably looking at a felony charge.
Finally, the most serious charge in the chapter is Penal Law Section 121.13,
entitled Strangulation in the first degree. This charge makes it a class
C felony to commit the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood
circulation, as defined in section 121.11 of this article, and thereby
cause serious physical injury to such other person.
A person who commits this crime is also likely to be charged with the class
D violent felony of Assault in the Second Degree, Penal Law 120.05.
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a strangulation-related charge,
you should seriously consider contacting the experienced criminal defense
attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone.
Their team includes three former prosecutors from the Domestic Violence
Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, and they have successfully defended individuals charged with strangulation-related
charges stemming from a wide variety of scenarios.
criminal obstruction of breathing,