The crime of strangulation is a new addition to Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code as of December 27, 2016. In that regard, there’s not a lot of court cases that have interpreted this law.


Strangulation, however, is a crime if a person “knowingly or intentionally impedes the breathing or circulation of the blood of another” in one of two ways:

  • Applying pressure to the throat or neck; or
  • Blocking the nose and mouth of the person


It is not necessary for the government to prove the “infliction of physical injury” to the alleged victim, and the lack of a physical injury is not a defense. However, it is an affirmative defense to a charge of strangulation if the act was consented to by the alleged victim.


Generally, strangulation is graded a second-degree misdemeanor. But it is graded as a second-degree felony if committed—

  • Against a family or household member;
  • By a caretaker against a care-dependent person; or
  • In conjunction with sexual violence, conduct constituting the crime of stalking, or conduct related to human trafficking.


  • Strangulation is graded as a first-degree felony if—
  • At the time of the offense, the person is subject to a protection-from-abuse order that covers the alleged victim;
  • In committing the offense, the person uses an instrument of crime as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 907; or
  • The person has previously been convicted of an offense involving sexual violence or human trafficking.


If you or a loved one is charged with strangulation, call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, Ryan H. James, who has tried and argued these cases with successful results.  Attorney James can be personally reached at 412-977-1827, or by e-mail at ryan@rhjameslaw.com