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Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation

"Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation” makes it a misdemeanor to apply pressure to the throat or neck of a person, or to block the nose or mouth of person, with the intent “to impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood” of that person. See New York Penal Law § 121.11. The statute does not require any showing that the defendant caused pain, trauma, or physical injury. If physical injury is alleged, then the felony version of attempted strangulation charges can be filed under PL 121.12 or 121.13.

Because the misdemeanor version of this crime requires no evidence of physical injury, the word of the alleged victim is often the only evidence. False or exaggerated charges can be motivated by an anticipated divorce or child custody hearing, or simply by revenge. In these cases, it is particularly important to have an attorney experienced in aggressively defending domestic violence charges.

Garden City Obstruction of Breathing Lawyer

If you were arrested for any criminal offense involving obstruction of breathing, obstruction of blood circulation, or attempted strangulation causing physical injury, then contact a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Stephanie Selloni. Our office is located in Garden City.We represent clients charged with a variety of domestic violence charges throughout Nassau County and Long Island. Call today to discuss your case.


Information on Obstruction of Breathing in New York


The History of Strangulation Charges

Although attempted strangulation has long been listed as one of the most dangerous types of domestic violence, before 2010, there was no specific law prohibiting strangulation in New York. Instead, it was prosecuted only when accompanied by a serious physical injury such that it became an assault. Law enforcement studies suggest that many strangulation cases leave little or no visible physical evidence behind.

The fact that no physical evidence is present in the case, also makes it extremely difficult to prove that the accusations are false. When the complaining witness can simply make a false accusation, not supported by any physical evidence, fighting the case require an experienced defense.


Criticism of the Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation Statute

Although the statute attempted to address a serious problem, it was not without criticism. The Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) believed that the statute set out the wrong requirement for intent because it merely required intent to cut off or obstruct the breathing of another.

The WBASNY feared this statute would incorporate acts that should not be prosecuted, such as placing a hand on a child's mouth to quiet a child, holding a child by the scruff of the neck for disciplinary purposes, engaging in horseplay, or in consensual sexual acts. The WBASNY suggested that the intent requirement should be changed to require intent to cause intimidation, annoyance, alarm, physical injury or fear for the safety of another. Those suggestions were not adopted.


Purpose of the Attempted Strangulation Statutes

The stated purpose of the law was to increase the penalties for intentional impeding another person's breathing including but not limited to circumstances where such conduct leads of unconsciousness for any period or any other physical injury or impairment.

Prior to the new law, there was no specific crime aimed at conduct involving intentional blocking of a victim's breathing or circulation. In those cases where no physical injury is present, even the misdemeanor crime of assault in the third degree was not applicable prior to 2010. By substantially increasing penalties for this offense, the law now prohibits strangulation as a class A misdemeanor or violent felony prosecution.

Strangulation has been identified one of the most serious and often lethal forms of domestic abuse. It has been well documented that abusers use strangulation to improperly exert power and control over a spouse or domestic partner. Law enforcement experts note the devastating psychological effect on victims and the possibility of death or serious injury. Experts estimate that just 11 pounds of pressure applied for 10 seconds can choke someone to the point of unconsciousness.


Lack of Evidence Leads to False Accusations

From the criminal defense attorney's perspective, the lack of physical evidence means that a complaining witness can easily fabricate charges. Prosecutions can occur based on the complaining witnesses testimony even though no physical evidence supports those allegations. The new law promises to implicate innocent people when the purpose of the complaining witness is to make a false or exaggerated claim of abuse.


PL § 121.11(a) for Pressure to Throat or Neck

In 2010, Penal Law § 121.11(a) for the criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation took effect creating a new class A misdemeanor. It provides that “[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: a. applies pressure on the throat or neck of such person....”


PL § Section 121.11(b) for Blocking the Nose or Mouth

Penal Law Section 121.11(b) for the criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation is also a class A misdemeanor. It provides that "[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: ....(b) blocks the nose or mouth of such person...."


Strangulation Statutes in Other States

Other states have made laws criminalizing the act of strangulation or obstructing the breathing or blood circulation of another person including:

  • Alabama makes strangulation a felony crime of domestic violence if the victim has a close relationship with the perpetrator. See Code of Alabama 13A–6–138;
  • Connecticut makes strangulation a felony in the 2nd degree. See Conn. Gen. Stats. 53A–64bb.
  • Idaho has an attempted strangulation statute that requires no proof of injury. See Idaho Code 18–923.
  • Michigan has a strangulation statute that requires intent to do great bodily harm. See Michigan Penal Code 750.84 (r).
  • Rhode Island has a strangulation statute that is similar to New York's Statute. See Rhode Island General Laws 11–5–2.3(c).

Nassau County Attorney Fighting Obstruction of Breathing Charges

If you were charged with obstruction of breathing, obstruction of blood circulation or attempted strangulation, then call us about help you fight those serious criminal charges. At the Law Offices of Stephanie Selloni, we understand how important it is to quickly begin an aggressive defense. We work hard to protect our clients. Call us to discuss your charges today for any case in Nassau County, Long Island, Garden City, or the greater New York City area.