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New York Strangulation and Criminal Obstruction of Breathing Charges Explained

By Spodek Law Group | May 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 01:00 pm

New York Strangulation and Criminal Obstruction of Breathing Charges Explained

Strangulation and obstruction of breathing charges in New York refer to a group of offenses under the state’s penal code that make it illegal to intentionally block someone’s ability to breathe normally. These charges are taken very seriously by law enforcement and can lead to felony convictions and years in prison if proven. This article provides an overview of the most important strangulation-related charges in New York and what defendants need to know if accused of these crimes.

Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation

The most basic strangulation offense in New York is Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation under Penal Law 121.11. This is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

To be convicted under PL 121.11, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with intent to impede normal breathing or blood circulation, either:

  • Applied pressure on the throat or neck of the victim
  • Blocked the nose or mouth of the victim

The key is that the defendant specifically intended to obstruct normal breathing, not just restrain the victim. For example, covering someone’s mouth to stop them from yelling would not necessarily violate this law if there was no intent to block their breathing.

PL 121.11 is often charged in domestic violence cases when there are allegations of choking or smothering, but no major injuries. Photographs, medical records, witness statements, and the alleged victim’s testimony may be used as evidence.

Strangulation in the Second Degree

Strangulation in the Second Degree under Penal Law 121.12 is a Class D violent felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison. This charge requires proving the elements of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing under PL 121.11 along with an aggravating factor such as:

  • Causing the victim to lose consciousness, even briefly
  • Causing stupor or disorientation
  • Causing any physical injury or impairment

So this charge applies to more serious cases where the strangulation resulted in some harm to the victim. Evidence like medical records, victim statements are key.

Strangulation in the First Degree

Penal Law 121.13 defines Strangulation in the First Degree, a Class C violent felony. This charge requires proving Strangulation under PL 121.11 along with “serious physical injury” to the victim, like:

  • Protracted impairment of health
  • Protracted loss of a body organ, member, function or disfigurement
  • A substantial risk of death

So First Degree Strangulation applies when the alleged choking causes very severe harm or life-threatening injury. Conviction can result in up to 15 years in prison.

Penalties and Sentencing

The potential penalties if convicted of a strangulation offense include:

  • Jail / prison – Up to 1 year for Criminal Obstruction under PL 121.11, up to 7 years for Strangulation 2nd Degree under PL 121.12, and up to 15 years for Strangulation 1st Degree under PL 121.13.
  • Fines – Up to $1000 for Criminal Obstruction, higher for felony strangulation.
  • Orders of protection – Mandatory orders of protection lasting 5-8 years are common, even without jail time. These restrict contact with the victim.
  • Probation – Terms of probation from 3-5 years are common. These require regular meetings with a probation officer and restrictions on activities.
  • Anger management / counseling – Courts often require defendants attend anger management, domestic violence counseling, or other treatment programs.
  • Permanent criminal record – All strangulation convictions result in a permanent criminal record that can reduce job opportunities, professional licensing, and more.

Due to the serious penalties, anyone charged with a strangulation offense in New York needs an experienced criminal defense attorney. An lawyer can carefully examine the evidence and look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

They may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through effective pretrial negotiations. Smart defense strategies can also win an acquittal at trial. And if convicted, a knowledgeable lawyer can advocate for the lowest possible penalties.

Don’t wait to seek legal help if accused of any strangulation or obstruction of breathing charges in New York. The consequences are too high to go it alone against an aggressive prosecution. Consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away about building the strongest possible defense.

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