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Criminal Defense Information for Mayhem (Cal. Penal Code s. 203)

  1. What is Mayhem?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Mayhem?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Mayhem?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Mayhem?
  1. What is Mayhem?

    Mayhem is the causing of serious bodily injury by unlawfully and maliciously removing, disfiguring, or disabling of someone's body parts.

    Serious bodily injury is a serious impairment of the body including loss or impairment of function of any body part or organ, any injury requiring suturing (stitches), or serious disfigurement.

    To be "malicious," an unlawful act need only be intentional or the act has to be intended to annoy or injure someone else.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Mayhem?

    To prove the defendant committed mayhem, the state must show that the defendant caused serious bodily injury by unlawfully and maliciously:

    • Removing part of someone's body;
    • Disabled a part of someone's body and the disability is more than slight or temporary;
    • Permanently disfigured someone;
    • Cut or disabled someone's tongue;
    • Slit someone's nose, ear, or lip; or
    • Injured someone's eye so as to significantly reduce the person's ability to see.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Mayhem?

    Mayhem is a felony and is punishable by two, four, or eight years in state prison. Cal. Pen. Code s. 204 Opens in New Window

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Mayhem?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for "affirmative" defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of "not guilty" even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    For Mayhem, convincing the jury that the prosecutor failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted willfully or maliciously, caused serious bodily injury, etc. would be enough to get a not guilty verdict.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Mayhem, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant's burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Mayhem, some of these justifications include:

    • Self-defense;
    • Defense of another;
    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.