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New York Penal Code %c2%a7 121 12 Strangulation Second Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 12:09 pm

New York Penal Code 121 12 Strangulation Second Degree

Strangulation in the second degree is a serious violent felony offense in New York. It occurs when someone intentionally chokes or strangles another person, causing them to lose consciousness, fall into a stupor, or suffer physical injury or impairment[1]. This offense can carry severe penalties, including years in prison.

What Is Strangulation in the Second Degree?

Strangulation in the second degree is defined in New York Penal Code § 121.12[2]. This law states that a person is guilty of strangulation in the second degree when they commit criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, and thereby cause:

  • Stupor
  • Loss of consciousness for any period of time
  • Any other physical injury or impairment

Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation means intentionally impeding someone’s normal breathing or circulation by applying pressure on their throat or neck, or blocking their nose or mouth[3].

So strangulation in the second degree is basically choking or strangling someone to the point where they become unconscious, semi-conscious, or injured. It does not require the victim to suffer serious physical injury or a prolonged lack of oxygen to the brain[4].

Examples of Strangulation in the Second Degree

Some examples of acts that could lead to charges of strangulation in the second degree include[5]:

  • Choking someone during an argument until they briefly lose consciousness
  • Grabbing someone’s neck from behind in a chokehold, causing them to pass out
  • Putting pressure on someone’s neck during sex, leading to bruising or other injury
  • Shoving an object into someone’s mouth to obstruct their breathing, resulting in impairment

Notably, the choking does not have to be done with the hands directly on the neck. It can include acts like shoving a pillow or other object against someone’s face to block their airway[4].

Penalties for Strangulation in the Second Degree

Strangulation in the second degree is a class D felony under New York law[2]. The potential penalties include:

  • Up to 7 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Restitution to the victim up to $15,000

In addition, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison because this is classified as a violent felony offense[1].

If the victim suffers serious physical injury, the crime may be elevated to strangulation in the first degree. This is a class C felony with up to 15 years in prison[4].

Strangulation offenses may also lead to orders of protection for the victim. There are often additional penalties in domestic violence cases involving family members[1].

Defenses to Strangulation in the Second Degree

Some potential defenses to strangulation in the second degree charges include[3][4]:

  • Lack of intent – The choking was accidental and there was no intent to obstruct breathing or blood circulation.
  • No injury – The alleged victim did not actually lose consciousness or suffer any physical impairment.
  • Fabrication – The alleged victim is lying or exaggerating about what occurred.
  • Self-defense – The choking occurred while legally defending oneself from an attack.
  • Consent – There was consent to the choking during an activity like sex or martial arts training.
  • Medical purpose – There was a valid medical reason for applying pressure to the person’s neck or obstructing their airway.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence in the case and determine if any of these defenses may apply.

Why Strangulation Laws Are Important

Laws like New York Penal Code § 121.12[2] aim to address the serious dangers of strangulation and choking. Research shows that strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence. Unconsciousness can occur within just 10 seconds of being choked, and death within minutes[6].

Strangulation is also one of the strongest predictors for future lethal violence in domestic abuse cases. One study found that victims who had been strangled by an intimate partner were 750% more likely to be killed later by that same perpetrator.

New York’s strangulation laws recognize these risks and provide serious penalties for such violent acts. However, the laws also aim to balance justice with giving offenders an opportunity for rehabilitation through alternative sentencing in appropriate cases.


Strangulation in the second degree is a felony charge under New York Penal Code § 121.12[2] that involves intentionally choking or strangling someone and causing them injury, unconsciousness or other impairment. It carries penalties up to 7 years in prison. These laws provide serious consequences for a dangerous form of violence. Anyone facing such charges should seek guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney regarding their rights and defense options. With proper legal advocacy, some defendants may be able to avoid the harshest penalties and seek alternative dispositions focused on rehabilitation.


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