Mayhem and aggravated mayhem are crimes that are outlined under California law. If you have been accused of one of these crimes, it’s important to talk to a lawyer about your rights and options. The definitions of mayhem and aggravated mayhem are found in sections 203 and 205 of the California penal code.
In order for a person to be convicted of mayhem, they must have maliciously and nonconsensually committed one of the following acts:
- Amputated part of another person’s body
- Permanently disabled another person’s body
- Permanently disfigured another person’s body
- Disabled or cut another person’s tongue
- Slit another person’s lip, ear, or nose
- Injured a person’s eyes in ways that cause visual impairment or total blindness
Essentially, this crime is related to acts that cause permanent bodily harm to another individual.
One of the most important elements of the crime is malice. The action must have done maliciously, which means you intended to do harm. If you permanently disabled or harmed another person accidentally, you cannot be convicted of mayhem. The prosecution must prove that you had an intention of harming the other person.
It is somewhat easier to prove intent with this crime than with some others, though. It is part of a group of crimes known as “general intent” offenses. While you must intend to harm the other person, you do not necessarily need to intend for the harm to be as serious as it is.
For example, if you slash at someone’s face and accidentally blind them, you are still guilty of mayhem. Or if you push someone down the stairs, and they end up permanently paralyzed in some form, you are guilty of mayhem. In addition, you might be charged with other crimes related to the offense, like assault or use of a deadly weapon.
The definition of disability is another key aspect of the crime. You must disable someone’s body in a serious way. If the disability isn’t permanent, you might still be guilty of mayhem as long as it is serious. It just needs to continue for a significant amount of time.
For example, if you assault someone and cause them to break their ankle, they won’t be able to walk for several weeks to months. Since you have disabled them, you can be charged with mayhem, even though the ankle will heal.
With the mayhem law, permanent disfigurement might be applied even if doctors are able to reduce or erase the disfigurement. Whether the disfigurement is repaired doesn’t matter to the court. If you amputate a person’s finger, you can be charged with the crime even when doctors are able to reattach it.
The disfigurement doesn’t need to be a readily visible area of the body, either. Even if your clothes usually cover the area, disfigurement is still serious enough to warrant mayhem charges.
The case will be tried in a California court. California law states that if a person is convicted of this crime, they will be subject to:
- Up to eight years in prison
- Up to 10,000 dollars in fines
- Probation following the prison sentence
There are also certain factors that can lead to more significant penalties. Age is one. If a victim is at least 65 years old or younger than 14, you might be subject to harsher sentencing. The same is true if the victim has a disability like a developmental disability, blindness, deafness, or paralysis.
When the victim meets any of these criteria, you might be subject to another year or two added to your original prison sentence. That said, it must be proven that you were aware of this fact about them.
Since mayhem and aggravated mayhem are both violent felony offenses, they are covered by the Three Strikes law in California. If you are convicted of a violent felony, and then you’re charged with another felony, the second felony will have a doubled sentence.
When you commit a third violent felony, your sentence will be anywhere from 25 years to life behind bars.
Defending Against the Charges
A good defense lawyer can help to defend against mayhem charges. There are several different strategies that might be employed.
One of the most common strategies is to show that you didn’t intend to harm the other person. You’ll only be found guilty if your actions had intention. However, you can still be found guilty if you intended to cause more minor harm than you actually did.
Simple mayhem also has much less severe charges than aggravated mayhem. If the attack was indiscriminate instead of personal, then simple mayhem is the appropriate charge.
You might also be able to use a self defense argument depending on the circumstances.