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Strangulation or Impeded Breathing

Strangulation or Impeded Breathing Attorney in Phoenix, Arizona

Domestic violence charges are always serious and often complex cases. Strangulation or choking, when the victim’s ability to breathe has been impeded, is a form of domestic violence that can be charged as a Class 4 Felony in Arizona. A felony charge for Aggravated Assault adds another layer of risk and punishment to Arizona’s already over-bearing criminal code.

Understanding Arizona’s domestic violence and aggravated assault laws are essential for formulating a defense to prevent a felony record, reduce or eliminate incarceration, and other life-changing consequences. If you were charged with strangulation or impeded breathing offense, it is crucial to seek legal advice from our credible Phoenix criminal defense lawyers at Snader Law Group as soon as possible.

Why Do I Need a Strangulation and Impeded Breathing Attorney in Arizona?

Aggravated assault by strangulation or impeded breathing is a serious felony that is frequently added to other charges, especially in domestic violence cases. While there are many ways to commit felony aggravated assault in Arizona, this crime requires a carefully crafted defense.

A few years ago, Maricopa County’s criminal prosecution unit received a huge federal grant. That grant was explicitly designated for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases, and it substantially changed how domestic violence cases involving strangulation/impeded breathing are investigated and prosecuted. If you are the accused in one of these cases, you can look forward to a highly aggressive prosecution.

If you were accused of committing strangulation and impeded breathing offense, it is vital to consult a knowledgeable Phoenix strangulation and impeded breathing attorney at Snader Law Group as early as possible to help you fight for your rights and protect your freedom. As a board-certified criminal law specialist in Phoenix, Arizona, Howard has represented more than a thousand clients facing felony and aggravated assault charges for more than three decades. We diligently work to refute the charges brought against you and fight to secure a favorable outcome in your case. Call our criminal defense law firm now and schedule an initial consultation.

What is the Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault?

Assault or simple assault is a misdemeanor in Arizona. An example of simple assault might be forcefully pushing or grabbing someone leaving a red mark or bruise. To be found guilty of simple assault, the prosecution must prove that you:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused any physical injury to another person; or
  • Intentionally put another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
  • Knowingly touched another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke that person

On the other hand, aggravated assault takes place where a simple assault results in a “serious” injury. A serious injury is one involving a broken bone or permanent disfigurement. Howard has defended those accused of causing an injury such as a ¼-inch scar, broken nose, and more substantial injuries such as broken ribs, missing limbs, etc.

Aggravated assault is considered a felony in Arizona. The Arizona law provides for the misdemeanor assault to be increased to a felony when it takes place with any number of additional, designated factors. Those factors may include but are not limited to the presence or use of a weapon or deadly instrument, an adult upon a minor, where the victim is the police, fire, or medical personnel.

What is Aggravated Assault for Impeded Breathing?

Arizona created a new type of aggravated assault explicitly based on a person strangling or choking another person. When the assaulter and the victim have a relationship that could be classified as a domestic violence relationship under the domestic violence statute A.R.S. § 13-3601, the court can enhance the sentence to include the collateral consequences of committing a felony or domestic violence offense.

Felony Classification and Penalties

Aggravated assault based on strangulation or suffocation and a domestic violence relationship is a Class 4 Felony and Domestic Violence Offense. But almost any of the other types of aggravated assault offenses can also be classified as a domestic violence offense if you have a domestic violence relationship.

If you are convicted of aggravated assault as a domestic violence offense, then you will have to abide by special domestic violence terms of probation, incarceration, fines, community service, and restitution. Additionally, you cannot have your gun rights restored.


The prosecution must prove that you committed an assault and that you intentionally or knowingly impeded the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person:

  • by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or
  • by obstructing the nose and mouth
  • either manually or through the use of an instrument; and

You have any domestic violence relationship as listed in A.R.S. 13-3601, including relationships such as:

  • You and the victim are married or were married;
  • You and the victim are roommates or were roommates;
  • You and the victim have a child or are pregnant together;
  • The victim is your or your spouse’s parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, or sister (by blood or adoption);
  • The victim is your stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild;
  • You and the victim are currently or were previously in a romantic or sexual relationship.

What’s the Difference Between Strangulation and Impeded Breathing?

Choking or strangulation are common allegations in domestic violence situations but choking or strangling does not necessarily rise to a felony aggravated assault charge. If you wrap your hands or arm around someone’s neck forcefully in an emotionally charged situation, most people will call that choking or strangling. While that is an assault and domestic violence, it is not likely a felony unless you impede the victim’s ability to breathe.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officers are often very quick to file aggravated assault charges based upon strangulation because many agencies are receiving grant money or other funding to pursue this type of case. When a victim claims that they were choked or strangled during an assault, typically during a domestic violence incident, law enforcement officers will ask that a forensic medical examination is conducted.

When is Strangulation Considered an Aggravated Assault?

In the video, Attorney Howard Snader covers when strangling is deemed an aggravated assault and touches on both felony and misdemeanor prosecution in cases of domestic violence.

When the Police Investigate Domestic Violence with Impeded Breathing

Domestic violence situations are not always like an episode of “Cops.” The police don’t usually show up and pry your fingers off your girlfriend’s throat and see her face turn blue because she can’t breathe. In most cases, they will show up after the fact. Hours or even days after the incident happened. So, when police investigate domestic violence cases where the victim’s ability to breathe was impeded, they must rely on other evidence.

  • When the police arrive, they may take photographs, interview witnesses, and collect physical evidence at the scene.
  • If the victim has been choked or strangled, they are typically taken to a medical facility where experts in domestic violence crimes will interview them; medical specialists will examine and conduct testing on them.
  • These experts and specialists are highly trained and skilled at determining if the victim’s breathing was wholly restricted. They look for signs of broken blood vessels, bruising, and other telltale indicators that the victim could not breathe, not just strangled. Their findings and the victim’s statement are compiled and delivered to prosecutors along with the evidence police collected at the scene.

If the victim claims they could not breathe and the medical report and other evidence support that, you will likely be charged with felony aggravated assault. In some cases, the victim’s statement or evidence is not strong enough to support a felony charge. In that case, the prosecution may send it back to the city prosecutor for misdemeanor assault prosecution. However, when the allegation of impeded breathing is raised, at least in Maricopa County, the matter will be submitted to prosecutors for felony consideration.

What are the Defenses for Aggravated Assault Charges in Arizona?

There are several ways to be successful in defending against an aggravated assault charge in Arizona. Remember, an aggravated assault is a simple assault charge plus an aggravating factor. If there is a way to show that there was no assault, the aggravating factor becomes irrelevant.  A  seasoned Phoenix strangulation or impeded breathing attorney can help you build the best defense strategy to obtain the best possible outcome for your case.


Self-defense is the most common defense against strangulation, impeded breathing, and aggravated assault offenses. In most cases, the victim is the one who made the first aggressive move against the defendant. Legally, self-defense works by acknowledging that there was an injury or contact, but that it was necessary to ensure self-preservation and protection.


Another possible defense strategy that can oppose the underlying aggravated assault charge is to challenge what is known as “causation”. Causation is what connects the person who is being charged with the crime to the injury caused to the alleged victim. In an assault or aggravated assault case, it is necessary to show that the person being charged with the crime is the cause of the injury, the apprehension, or the offensive contact.

Lack of Evidence

In all aggravated assault defenses, it is important to do a thorough investigation into all aspects of the case, in a process called discovery. A qualified Phoenix strangulation and impeded breathing attorney should challenge all the evidence in your case including: ​

  • 911 calls
  • Witness statements
  • Medical Records
  • Photos and video evidence collected by police
  • Evidence showing the use of self-defense
  • Evidence showing the existence of a mistake or accident
  • Evidence showing a lack of intent

Call Our Experienced Phoenix Strangulation and Impeded Breathing Lawyer Now!

Aggravated assault by strangulation or impeded breathing is a serious offense and requires an extensive review of the facts of the case. Now, more than ever, if you are charged with felony aggravated assault in a domestic violence case, you need a competent Phoenix criminal defense attorney on your side.

The risk of going to prison or jail is very real. Hoping the victim does not show, believing that the truth will set you free, or counting on the charges being reduced without the help of a criminal defense lawyer is just foolhardy. You can keep your freedom, but you need an attorney who will fight for you. With the Snader Law Group, you are in good hands. As a criminal law expert, Howard Snader has developed strategies to maximize your chances of avoiding incarceration, repairing your reputation, and hopefully preventing a felony record.

If you have questions, our criminal defense law firm will take the time to answer them and help you create a winning strategy. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.