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New York Strangulation Crimes: NY Penal Law Article 121

Charges under Penal Law sections 121.11, 121.12 and 121.13 are collectively known by criminal lawyers in New York as Strangulation and Related offenses. These violent crimes and the cases that stem from them are handled by prosecutors and the courts with extreme care and seriousness irrespective of whether or not the accusations involve allegations of Domestic Violence. Whether a misdemeanor or felony, an Order of Protection is issued or you are released on your own recognizance, the immediate and long term consequences of both an arrest and conviction are as grave as they are embarrassing and potentially life altering.

Definitions, Elements and Penalties

Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation: PL 121.11

A person is guilty of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation under NY Penal Law section 121.11 if it is your objective and goal to block your target’s normal breathing blood circulation. While this offense can happen in a variety of ways, there are additional elements. You, the accused, must hamper the complainant’s breathing or blood circulation and do so by either (a) applying pressure on the person’s throat or neck or by (b) blocking that person’s nose or mouth. The law does not differentiate between using your hand, a pillow or any other object although, depending on the dangerous instrument used, you could also face equal or more serious charges.

If convicted of this “A” misdemeanor, a judge has the authority to sentence you to as long as one year in jail, a term of probation, community service, mental health treatment, anger management classes or a combination of all of these sanctions.

Strangulation in the Second Degree: PL 121.12

This offense, Second Degree Strangulation, pursuant to NY Penal Law 121.12, is a similar but a much more serious crime than Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation. Incorporating this lesser offense, the Penal Law defines this crime as one in which the defendant violates Penal Law 121.11 along with other factors of which only one need occur. If the person whom you intentionally and allegedly strangle also loses consciousness, no matter for how long or brief, the victim falls into a stupor as a result of your actions, or the victim suffers a legally defined “physical injury” involving substantial pain or any level of impairment, then you have committed this crime.

The potential sentence upon a plea to this “D” felony can land you behind bars for as long as seven years as well as a lengthier term of probation and similar penalties as the misdemeanor.

Strangulation in the First Degree: PL 121.13

Somewhat similar to the lesser felony, First Degree Strangulation, pursuant to Penal Law 121.13, requires that if you perpetrate the crime of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation and as a result the victim suffers a “serious physical injury,” then you are guilty even if it was not your intent to cause such an injury. Keep in mind that the nature of the injury must go beyond ordinary “physical injury” and reach the “serious physical injury” threshold. In this situation, where broken blood vessels, swollen jaw and deep “angry” bruise would likely satisfy the lesser charge, it would not be enough for a violation of First Degree Strangulation. Instead, the injury must be of the type that causes protracted impairment to the complainant’s health, disfigurement, possibility of death, or similar trauma.

By far the most serious, a “violent felony” by statute, if convicted your sentencing judge will have no choice but to send you to prison for no less than 3.5 years and as long as 15.

Example and Hypothetical Scenario

Strangulation offenses can range from the relatively simple choking of another person and no other harm coming to them, to more severe charges related to critical consequences of the choking such as the person passing out or being in danger of death from injuries such as a broken windpipe. It is important to note that a charge involving these violations of the law likely may not stand alone. While each case is unique, it would not be atypical to see these charges brought alongside Assault offenses found in Article 120 of the Penal Law. After all, it is certainly conceivable, whether ultimately true or not, that your defense attorney is tasked with defending you against multiple crimes for threatening, striking and strangling a complainant.

Related Offenses and Collateral Issues

Related offenses include felony and misdemeanor offenses including Assault, Menacing, Aggravated Harassment, Stalking and other charges.

Potential Defenses

Generally, your intent is central to any of these offenses intent. If your intent, for example, is to quiet a person to stop that person from yelling because you are in a heated argument, then arguably your intent was not to impede their breathing when you put your hand on his or her mouth. Moreover, if you were attempting to provide medical attention, such a defense is codified in Penal Law Article 121. Whatever your potential defense may be, if you do not have the right legal counsel to advocate on your behalf, that defense will fall far short of resolving your criminal case while leaving you exposed to countless collateral consequences ranging from decimation of your career in the medical profession, as an employee of New York City and in just about any arena while also throwing your immigration status into a world of uncertainty.

Never forget that no matter the nature of an investigation, arrest or indictment, failing to protect yourself and implement the best defense is not an option. When so much is at stake and the potential for a life altering felony or misdemeanor looms, you can count on the experience, knowledge and advocacy of the criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law.

Call the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312–7129 or contact us online today.

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