28 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 121.12: Strangulation in the Second Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:15 am

To cause someone to stop breathing or to obstruct that person’s ability to breathe is against the law. Such actions are considered extremely serious by New York law enforcement because they frequently lead to severe injuries and even death.  There are 3 criminal offenses under New York law related to choking or strangling another individual. One of these offenses is strangulation in the second degree. Pursuant to New York Penal Code § 121.12, you can be charged and  prosecuted for strangulation in the second degree if you apply pressure on the throat or neck of another individual, or block another person’s nose or mouth, with intent to impede that person’s Usual breathing or circulation of blood.  For this charge, your action will have had to cause that person to:


  1. Fall into a stupor or near-unconsciousness,
  2. Completely lose consciousness, or
  3. Sustain a physical injury


An Example

A defendant named Bryan Carte in the case of the People v. Carte, 976 N.Y.S.2d 594 (2013) had been accused of choking his girlfriend and shoving a slice of pizza into her face. As a result of his actions against her, his girlfriend suffered cuts, scratches, abrasions, and marks on her neck. Mr. Carter was subsequently charged with strangulation in second degree under New York Penal Code § 121.12. The court found that, due to the fact that the victim suffered neck injuries and experienced significant pain as a result of the strangulation, Carte’s conviction was appropriate.


Offenses that are Related

Strangulation in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 121.13

Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation: New York Penal Law § 121.11


Possible Defenses

For the purpose of convicting you of strangulation in the second degree, the prosecutor needs to demonstrate that the victim lost consciousness or was physically impaired in some manner as a result of your actions. If neither of these conditions exist, then the prosecutor will have a hard time proving that you committed the crime of strangulation in the second degree.


The criminal code furnishes defendants a statutory defense against a charge of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. According to New York Penal Code § 121. 12, if your actions are pursuant to a necessary medical or dental purpose, then you could bring a solid defense against a choking or strangulation charge.


The Sentence

Strangulation in the second degree is categorized as a class D felony. The maximum possible sentence you could face is 7 years in prison. Since strangulation in the second degree is additionally classified as a violent felony offense, the judge is obligated to impose a minimum sentence of 2 years behind bars. You may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000 on top of  as much as $15,000 in restitution to the victim.


It is critical for you to understand that criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation is also classified as a family offense. What that means to you is that if the choking took place in relation to a domestic violence incident, then the  prosecution of your case may be subject to the special guidelines related to concurrent jurisdiction under Criminal Procedure Law § 140.10(4).