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 or chokehold.
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.