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NY Penal Law § 121.13: Strangulation in the first degree

Choking and strangling are types of violence that are often associated with cases of domestic violence. Under New York's criminal code strangulation is defined as causing another person to stop breathing or obstructing that person's ability to breathe. There are three criminal offenses related to choking strangling another person, the most serious of which is strangulation in the first degree. According to New York Penal Code § 121.13 you can be prosecuted for strangulation in the first degree if you apply pressure on the throat or neck of another person or block another person's nose or mouth with intent to impede that person's normal breathing or circulation of blood, and as a result you cause that person to suffer a serious physical injury. It is a class C felony.


During the course of an argument a husband grabbed his wife by the neck and squeezed it. He kept squeezing until the woman fell limp onto the floor. The husband called 911. Emergency personnel had a difficult time reviving the wife. She was rushed to the hospital. The attending physician determined that the wife suffered brain damage as a result of loss of oxygen to the brain. The husband was charged with strangulation in the first degree because of the severity of the wife's injury.

Related Offenses
  1. Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation: New York Penal Law § 121.11
  2. Strangulation in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 121.12

In order to convict you of strangulation in the first degree the prosecutor must show that the victim suffered a serious physical injury. Under New York law there is a very specific definition of "serious physical injury." More than a bruise or minor pain is required. Under New York Penal Code § 10.10(10) serious physical injury requires an injury that results in protracted disfigurement, causes death or presents a significant risk of death. If the victim suffered an injury that was not very serious, then a charge of strangulation in the first degree would not be appropriate.

The criminal code provides a statutory defense to a charge of strangulation in the first degree. Under New York Penal Code § 121.14, if your actions are pursuant to a valid medical or dental purpose then you have a valid defense to such a charge.


Strangulation in the first degree is a class C felony as well as a violent felony offense. If convicted the maximum possible prison sentence is 15 years. You will face at least 3 1/2 years in prison as a sentence of just probation is not an option. In addition you may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000 as well as restitution of up to $15,000.

Furthermore, strangulation in the first degree is classified as a family offense. Thus, if the strangulation occurred as part of a domestic violence incident your case may be subject to the special rules related to concurrent jurisdiction under Criminal Procedure Law § 140.10(4).

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

A person is guilty of strangulation in the first degree when he or she commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, as defined in § 121.11 of this article, and thereby causes serious physical injury to such other person.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Being arrested for domestic violence based on strangulation is very serious. Not only are you likely to end up in prison for a number of years, after you serve your prison term you will have a criminal record. As a result many aspects of your life will be much more difficult. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors in violation of New York state law and federal law. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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