CA Penal Code 203 & 205

Mayhem

What is “Mayhem”?

Mayhem is a serious crime and involves maliciously causing serious bodily harm to someone. The crime is considered more serious than battery, and requires a more serious injury than battery.

If you are charged with mayhem, you are facing a very serious allegation, and you should contact an attorney and seek advice because mayhem is a felony.

That means, if you are convicted of mayhem, you may be sentenced to up to eight years in prison, and fined up to $10,000; or both.

Required Elements of CA PC 203

According to California Penal Code 203, mayhem is defined as causing any of the following injuries:

  • depriving a person of a body limb or member;
  • disabling, disfiguring, or rendering useless a part of a person’s body;
  • cutting or disabling the person’s tongue; or
  • slitting the person’s nose, ear, or lip.

Unlike the crimes of assault or battery, the focus of mayhem is on the degree of injury, not the amount of force used.

Prosecuting “Mayhem”

To be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. there must be evidence that you caused the alleged victim’s injury, as described under the statute; AND
  2. that the act was done maliciously.

Acting maliciously requires either intentionally doing a wrongful act, or acting with an unlawful intent to annoy or injure another. In other words, mayhem is not proven if the act was done entirely by accident with no intent to do something wrong, or to injure another person.

If you did cause a serious injury to some one else entirely by accident, then you may be convicted of another crime, such as battery, but not mayhem. Intent can be hard to prove in the criminal courts, and the prosecution bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A good criminal defense attorney will find several good arguments to mitigate or eliminate the element of intent.

Mayhem, however, is considered a general intent crime, which means that you need not intend the specific injury, but only that you intended the act.

For example: The prosecutor does not have to prove that you intended to split someone’s lip, but only that you intended to strike the person with the bottle, which then causes the split lip. This is one example of how the law can be complicated, and why it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to explain the law.

Mayhem also requires the prosecutor prove a serious injury has occurred. In other words, the alleged victim must have suffered the loss of a body part, or limb; or suffers a disability that renders the body part unusable for more than temporarily. That doesn’t mean the disability has to be permanent, but must last for a material amount of time.

For example: If the alleged victim suffers a broken arm, and the arm needs six months to heal, then that injury would be sufficient for a conviction of mayhem. Another type of serious injury is permanent disfigurement of a body part, even if that body part is normally covered by clothing, or can be medically corrected.

Penalties

As with most crimes, there is a more serious charged of aggravated mayhem, which can result in significantly more serious penalties. The charge of aggravated mayhem requires prosecutors to prove that the act was done with the specific intent of causing the serious injury.

One reason to always be represented by an experienced attorney is the possibility that the attorney can negotiate a plea bargain for a lesser charge because the difference in penalties may be significant.

A conviction under CA Penal Code 205 (aggravated mayhem) can result in:

  • a life sentence in state prison, as well as a fine up to $10,000; or both.

You should be aware that even a conviction for simple mayhem is a felony and has serious punishments:

  • a prison sentence of up to eight years, and/or a fine up to $10,000; or
  • felony (formal) probation.

Also, sentences can be enhanced if certain facts are proven such as the alleged victim being under 14 years old; older than 65 years old; blind or deaf; or physically disabled; or a paraplegic. These facts, if proven, can result in an additional one to two-year prison sentence, if the prosecutor can also prove that you knew, or reasonably should have known this was true of the alleged victim.

Defending “Mayhem”

There are certain defenses available, and an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to interview you and discuss possible defenses. For example, if the injury to another person was due to self-defense, which means you used reasonable force against a real threat of bodily harm or death. Another defense is if the act was accidental, and there was no malice.

Mayhem is a serious crime, and a felony with severe punishments if convicted. If you are charged with the crime of mayhem, it is important to contact an attorney immediately, so that you can discuss your options.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will interview you, review police records, conduct a thorough investigation, and provide you with the information you need. Also, a defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor for lessor charges.

Getting arrested and charged with a crime is stressful, and you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to explain your rights, answer your questions, and make sure you get the best possible outcome.

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