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Obstruction of Breathing / Strangulation

Strangulation and obstruction of breathing are crimes that are usually charged in domestic violence situations, often involving spouses, intimate partners or even those in a dating relationship. Depending on whether these alleged actions caused a loss of consciousness or serious injuries, the crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

The charges can include:

  • Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, New York Penal Law §121.11 — Class A Misdemeanor
  • Strangulation in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law §121.13 — Class D Felony
  • Strangulation in the First Degree, New York Penal Law §120.12 — Class C Felony

In a misdemeanor case with no obvious sign of injury, a person can be charged with a crime based entirely on the alleged victim’s statements. The statute for obstruction of breathing (often called “strangulation”) was past in recent years to help prosecutors prove these serious cases that often leave behind little to no physical evidence. The fact that these crimes often have no physical evidence also increase the changes that an innocent person will be charged with the crime.

False allegations are particularly common when the spouses or intimate partners are facing a contentious divorce or child custody proceedings. False allegations can also arise during a bad break-up just out of spite. In some cases, the alleged victim reports being forced to exaggerate the claim by the arresting officer who wants to make an arrest for a more serious offense. Many alleged victims will report being told “one of you is going to jail.”

Attorney for Domestic Violence by Strangulation in Manhattan

Have you been charged with strangulation or obstruction of breathing in Manhattan or New York City? You will want to immediately seek the help of the experienced strangulation attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC. These cases are difficult to defend. Let us put our experience to work for you as we fight to get the charges dismissed.

We represent professionals who face career ending consequences after an allegation of domestic violence. We understand that these kind of cases can cause a serious financial set back for the family that can last for years to come. We can help you put your life back together and help your family recover as quickly as possible.

Jeffery L. Greco and Dustan O. Neyland are both former prosecutors who know how to uncover key evidence and help protect the rights of their clients. You can have our firm review your case during a free, confidential consultation as soon as you call [[$phone


New York City Strangulation Information Center


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Obstruction of Breathing Charges in Manhattan

There are three crimes listed under Strangulation and Related Offenses in Article 121 of New York Penal Law (PL):

  • Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, New York Penal Law (PL) § 121.11 — Class A misdemeanor if a person, with intent to impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person, either applies pressure on the throat or neck of such person or blocks the nose or mouth of such person.
  • Strangulation in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law § 121.12 — Class D felony if a person commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and thereby causes stupor, loss of consciousness for any period of time, or any other physical injury or impairment.
  • Strangulation in the First Degree, New York Penal Law § 121.13 — Class C felony if a person commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and thereby causes serious physical injury to such other person.

Any one of these criminal offense is rarely the only crime that an alleged offender is accused of. Usually, a strangulation or obstruction of breathing charge is filed in conjunction with other domestic violence charges such as assault, harassment, reckless endangerment, or menacing.


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New York City Strangulation Penalties

The possible consequences of a conviction for an obstruction of breathing or strangulation crime vary depending on the specific offense and any accompanying counts charged, but the possible punishments for just the act of impeding or obstructing the breathing of another person can be fairly severe. Possible maximum sentences by criminal classification are as follows:

  • Class A Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000;
  • Class D Felony — Up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $5,000; or
  • Class C Felony — Up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

These types of allegations can also result in criminal courts issuing orders of protection against the alleged offenders. Such protective orders can thereby grant the alleged victim sole custody of a couple’s children, order the alleged offender to pay temporary child support, and possibly force the alleged offender to relinquish all of his or her firearms.


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Manhattan Obstruction of Breathing Defenses

New York Penal Law § 121.14 states that it is an affirmative defense to strangulation or obstruction of breathing charges that the alleged offender performed such conduct “for a valid medical or dental purpose.” Such a defense is only applicable in a handful of situations, but there can be other defenses which help an alleged offender get the charges he or she faces reduced or dismissed. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Accidental contact;
  • Defense of another person;
  • Defense of property;
  • Different cause of  injury;
  • False or exaggerated allegations;
  • No criminal intent; or
  • Self-defense.

The statutory provisions for this offense states: “A person is guilty of strangulation in the second degree when he or she commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation … and thereby causes stupor, loss of consciousness for any period of time, or any other physical injury or impairment” (Penal Law § 121.12). “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 … applies pressure on the throat or neck of such person” (Penal Law § 121.11 [a] ).


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Strangulation Lawyer in New York City – Greco Neyland, PC

If you are facing obstruction of breathing or strangulation charges, it is important to seek the advice of experienced criminal defense attorneys. Jeff Greco and Dustan Neyland understand that innocent people often find themselves victims of false allegations or police misunderstandings of complex situations, and Greco Neyland, PC works tirelessly to achieve the most favorable outcomes for clients accused of these types of crimes.

Do not go to court thinking that passionately presenting your own version of events will be enough to overcome the legal challenges you face. Take the opportunity to have our Manhattan obstruction of breathing attorneys evaluate your case and discuss your options by calling (212) 951-1300 today to set up a free consultation.

This article was last updated on Thursday, May 26, 2016.

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