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Home blog Assault Understand California’s Mayhem Laws

Understand California’s Mayhem Laws

By Michael Guisti on March 18, 2021

California courts can issue harsh punishments for violent crimes, often requiring defendants to serve long prison sentences for assault and battery, especially if the incident involved a firearm or weapon. While the majority of these cases involve physical fights or violent robberies, California also has unique laws against disfiguring a victim. A mayhem charge allows courts to punish defendants with extensive penalties for disabling or disfiguring victims.

How Courts Define Mayhem

Mayhem is defined under California Penal Code 203 PC, which makes it a felony to “unlawfully and maliciously” injure another individual in such as way that the victim is left disabled, disfigured, or deprived of a body part, such as a limb, eye, ear, nose, tongue, or lip. Mayhem is another term for maim, which refers to the act of mutilating a person. For example, scratching someone’s eye in a fight and causing him to go blind can lead to a mayhem charge, even if the victim receives corrective surgery that fixes his condition.

Examples of disfiguring or disabling injuries include:

  • Removing someone’s limb
  • Poking out someone’s eye
  • Slitting someone’s ear, lip, or nose
  • Tearing someone’s tongue
  • Paralyzing someone by shooting them in the back
  • Breaking someone’s wrist or ankle, leading to a permanent disability
  • Striking someone in the head and causing brain damage

In order to be charged with mayhem, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You acted with malice, meaning you intended to harm the victim;
  • You acted unlawfully, meaning you were not removing the body part as part of a medical procedure; and
  • Your actions cause the victim to lose a body part or the ability to use a body part, even temporarily

As a felony offense, a mayhem conviction can lead to:

A defendant may also be forced to pay restitution or undergo a civil lawsuit from the victim.

How Is It Different From Assault and Battery?

Mayhem goes above and beyond what typically occurs in an assault and battery case. Where assault refers to the fear or threat of physical harm and battery to the act of causing great bodily injury to someone, mayhem involves some type of disfiguring injury or disability. California courts intend to punish offenders who cause lifelong injuries, even if doctors can repair the damage. In some cases, assault and battery charges can be elevated to mayhem if the district attorney discovers a victim developed a disability due to an attack.

What Is Aggravated Mayhem?

As serious as a mayhem charge is, it can be enhanced if the district attorney believes that the defendant acted with little regard for the victim’s life. Under California Penal Code 205, aggravated mayhem can apply in cases where the defendant showed “extreme indifference” to the victim’s psychological or physical wellbeing and intentionally caused the victim to suffer from a disability or disfigurement. It also applies to cases where the defendant intentionally deprived a victim of a body part, organ, or limb.

Aggravated mayhem comes with an enhanced sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

How Do I Beat a Mayhem Charge?

There is no doubting how serious a mayhem charge is. District attorneys can demand extensive prison sentences and significant fines from anyone convicted of disabling another person, but the law is very clear about what legally constitutes mayhem. In order for you to be convicted, the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted maliciously and directly caused the victim to suffer from a disfigurement or disability.

Remember, the burden of proof is on the district attorney, and if you work with a skilled Orange County criminal defense attorney, you may be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our knowledgeable team can employ several defenses, including:

  • You did not act maliciously.
  • You did not intend to injure the victim.
  • You acted in self-defense or in defense of another person.
  • The victim’s injuries do not legally meet the definition of a disfigurement or disability.

Beating a mayhem charge requires the know-how of an experienced attorney, and you should look no further than Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. If you or someone you love is facing mayhem charges in Orange County, pick up the phone and call us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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Posted in: Assault

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