Although it has always been illegal in New York to intentionally cause physical injury to another person (see Assault, Chapter 120.00 of the Penal Law), a relatively new set of laws has increased the penalties for the strangulation of another person. New York Penal Law Section 121.11 (Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation) makes it a class A misdemeanor to apply pressure on the throat or neck of another person, or block the nose or mouth of another person, with the intent to impede the normal breathing or blood circulation of that person. This crime can be a Class D violent felony (Strangulation in the Second Degree, Penal Law 121.12) where stupor or a loss of consciousness is caused by the act, and can be a Class C violent felony (Strangulation in the First Degree, Penal Law 121.13) where the person suffers serious physical injury as a result. Obviously, there is an exception for people who impede breathing/blood flow for medical/dental purposes, such as surgery (Penal Law Section 121.14).
In our experience, these cases most often arise in domestic situations. We have seen a number of people charged with Attempted Strangulation in the Second Degree – which is a very serious E felony – in cases where they have attempted to restrain or defend against a hysterical or aggressive wife, girlfriend or partner. Also, we have seen many cases in which complainants assert that they lost consciousness as a result of strangulation, when in reality, they had simply passed out due to drug or alcohol abuse. Finally, some strangulation cases may be defensible as consensual acts of auto-erotic asphyxiation. Thus, understanding the precise facts of the encounter, as well as the medical and scientific evidence, is absolutely critical in defending these cases.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a violation of the Strangulation laws, you should consider contacting the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Their lawyers include three former prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, all of whom investigated and prosecuted dozens of assault- and strangulation-related cases. (Matthew Galluzzo, in particular, was a supervisor in the Domestic Violence Unit and regularly advised and trained other prosecutors in how to effectively investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases.) As criminal defense lawyers, they have leveraged their experience on behalf of their clients, many of whom have seen their assault and domestic violence-related charges dismissed as a result of their efforts. Call them or email them to schedule an appointment.