25 Sep 23

New York Penal Code 121.11 – Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 10:34 pm

Hey there! This article will give you the lowdown on New York Penal Code 121.11, which covers the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. We’ll break it down in simple terms, going over what it means, real world examples, penalties, and defenses. Ready to learn all about this law in a conversational way? Let’s dive in!

What is NY Penal Code 121.11?

In plain English, NY Penal Code 121.11 makes it illegal to intentionally block someone’s ability to breathe or circulate blood normally. This law covers anything you do to keep someone from breathing freely or circulating blood through their body. Most often, it applies to choking or strangulation.

The technical legal definition from the law itself says a person is guilty “when, with intent to impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person, he or she:

  1. Applies pressure on the throat or neck of such person; or
  2. Blocks the nose or mouth of such person.

So in plain English – it’s using physical force to block someone’s airway or blood flow. This includes putting pressure on their throat, choking them, covering their mouth or nose, etc. The key is it has to be intentional, not an accident.

Real World Examples

Here are some real world examples of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation:

  • A boyfriend choking his girlfriend during an argument
  • A bar fight where one person puts another in a chokehold
  • A parent covering their child’s mouth and nose as punishment
  • An abusive spouse strangling their partner
  • A robber putting their victim in a chokehold

As you can see, it covers any situation where someone deliberately restricts another person’s oxygen or blood flow. Choking and strangulation are the most common ways it happens.

Charges and Penalties

If you’re convicted under NY Penal Code 121.11, it’s charged as a Class A misdemeanor. That’s a serious misdemeanor charge, just below felony level. It can lead to up to 1 year in jail as a maximum sentence.

Fines up to $1,000 may also be imposed. And a misdemeanor conviction goes on your permanent criminal record. It can really impact jobs, housing, and other life prospects if convicted.


So those are some scary penalties! But there are defenses you can raise if wrongly accused under NY Penal Code 121.11. Some common defenses include:

  • Lack of intent – Say it was an accident or done in self-defense without intent to choke/strangle.
  • Misidentification – Argue you weren’t the person who committed the crime.
  • False allegations – Challenge the credibility of the accuser if they’re making up or exaggerating the incident.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help argue these defenses for you and attack the prosecution’s case. They may be able to get charges reduced or even dismissed.

Strangulation Laws

While we’re talking about choking and strangulation, it’s worth mentioning NY has separate laws for different degrees of strangulation:

These laws punish intentional strangulation more harshly than 121.11. The exact strangulation charge depends on factors like injury, use of a weapon, or prior convictions.


Let’s recap the key points about NY Penal Code 121.11:

  • Makes it illegal to intentionally obstruct someone’s breathing or blood circulation
  • Covers choking, strangulation, smothering, etc.
  • Charged as a Class A misdemeanor
  • Up to 1 year in jail as penalty
  • Defenses like lack of intent are possible
  • Similar but more serious strangulation laws also exist

I hope this overview gave you a helpful introduction to NY Penal Code 121.11 and what it means in the real world. Let me know if you have any other questions!