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NY Penal Law § 121.11: Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation

June 28, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

To cause someone to stop breathing or to obstruct that person’s ability to breathe is against the law. In other words, it is a criminal offense to choke or strangle another individual. Such actions are considered extremely serious by New York law enforcement because they frequently lead to severe injuries and even death. Choking another individual is referred to as criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation in the New York Penal Code.  You can get prosecuted for criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation under New York Penal Code § 121.11 if you apply pressure on the throat or neck of another individual or block the nose or mouth, with intent to impede that individual’s usual breathing or circulation of blood.


For Example

In the case of the  People v. Figueroa, 968 N.Y.S.2d 866 (2013), the defendant was convicted of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation on the basis of the fact that he had applied pressure to his girlfriend’s neck causing her to struggle for air. Witnesses observed the man put his left hand on the woman’s throat and then his right hand on the back of her neck. They saw that the woman’s color turned white, her eyes bugged out and she struggled to breathe. Witnesses who were present during the incident testified that the choking lasted for about 2-3 seconds.


Offenses that are Related

Strangulation in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 121.12

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


Possible Defenses

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. 11, 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.


On top of that, if you can demonstrate that your intent was not to impede that person’s usual breathing or circulation of blood, under those circumstances, you have a defense against a charge of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation.


The Sentence

Because this is categorized as a class A misdemeanor, if you are convicted of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation charge, the maximum sentence that you could be given by the judge is 1 year in jail. It is also possible that the judge may sentence you to no jail time. In lieu of any time behind bars, your sentence may simply be a probation term of 3 years.


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).



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