Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation: New York Penal Law 121.11

One of the more serious misdemeanor crimes you can be arrested for in New York, Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, New York Penal Law 121.11(a) and New York Penal Law 121.11(b), is often charged in the context of a New York Domestic Violence arrest. Although a prosecution for PL 121.11 need not be domestic and familial in nature, regardless of whomever the alleged victim is if you are convicted in a New York City Criminal Court or a Justice Court somewhere in a municipality in Westchester, Rockland or any other county, the potential sentence is the same. That is, not only can you face up to one year in a county jail, but there are other penalties ranging from probation, anger management programs, community service and even fines. This blog entry will address the crime of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation not in terms of how courts interpret the law, but in the event you faced a jury or bench trial accused of PL 121.11, the jury instructions that will be read to the jury or followed by a judge in rendering a decision.

Depending on certain factors, the NYS Jury Instructions that a court will read to a jury, or adhere to for its own decision making, will first require that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you either applied pressure to the throat or neck of the complainant or, alternatively, you blocked his or her nose and mouth. Not merely a physical act, the judge will then require that the finder of fact also determine that you did so for a specific purpose. Your intent must have been to hinder and encumber the complainant’s normal breathing or the circulation of their blood.

Keep in mind that there is an affirmative defense to NY PL 121.11. While you can discuss this defense, and any others you might have to an arrest for Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, it is important to recognize that certain defenses established in the penal code are often defined as “affirmative defenses.” When a defense is described by law as such, you, the defendant, have the burden of proving that defense not beyond a reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of the evidence. In the case of this particular crime, it is an affirmative defense that your conduct that would have otherwise violated the law was committed for a valid medical purpose. Again, an affirmative defense is one merely outlined by statute and in no way prevents you, the accused, and your criminal defense attorney from asserting any other defense you both deem viable and appropriate.

To better understand how the courts interpret the law of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation and to examine the elements of this crime as well as Strangulation and related offenses (Strangulation in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 121.12, and Strangulation in the First Degree, New York Penal Law 121.13), the highlighted links and a consultation with your criminal lawyer can provide you with the materials you need to defend yourself against these arrests and prosecutions.

A New York criminal defense firm representing clients in both Domestic Violence and non-Domestic Violence crimes related to Strangulation and Criminal Obstruction arrests and allegations, the founding  criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC both started their careers as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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