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California Mayhem Law & Defense

Penal Code 203 & 205

Information on the crime of mayhem is found at California penal code section 203. Information on the crime of Aggravated mayhem is found at penal code section 205. Both mayhem and aggravated mayhem, including punishment and defenses to those charges, are discussed in this article. 

The law of PC 203: Mayhem

Mayhem is defined as depriving a human being of a member of his body, or disables, disfigures, or renders it useless, or cuts or disables the tongue, or puts out an eye, or slits the nose, ear, or lip. (PC 203)

In sum, to prove that the defendant committed mayhem under PC 203, the district attorney must prove that the defendant did one of the following:

  • Maliciously committed an act that either,
  • Removed a part of someone's body, or
  • Disabled a part of someone's body where the disability was more than slight or temporary, including cutting someone tongue, nose, or eye, or
  • Permanently disfigure someone

Note: A disfiguring injury may be considered permanent even if the injury may later be repaired by surgery.

The law of PC 205: Aggravated Mayhem

Aggravated mayhem defined: A person is guilty of aggravated mayhem when he or she unlawfully, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the physical or psychological well-being of another person, intentionally causes permanent disability or disfigurement of another human being, or deprives a human being of a limb, organ, or member of his or her body" (PC 205).

To prove aggravated mayhem under PC 205, the district attorney is not required to prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim. (PC 205).

The difference between mayhem charged under PC 203 and aggravated mayhem charged under PC 205, is that aggravated mayhem requires the district attorney to prove that the defendant had the specific intent to dismember or disfigure a person. To prove ordinary mayhem, the district attorney only needs to prove that the defendant maliciously committed an act that resulted in dismemberment or disfigurement, but not that the defendant specifically intended to dismember or disfigure another person.

Punishment for Mayhem & Aggravated Mayhem

Both mayhem, charged under PC 203, and aggravated mayhem, charged under PC 205, are classified as felonies.

Prison Sentence: If found guilty of mayhem under PC 203, the defendant could face up to eight (8) years in a California state prison. If found guilty of aggravated mayhem under PC 205, the defendant could face up to life in prison.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence without a prison sentence may be available in some mayhem or aggravated cases. A probation sentence can include some actual jail time (not prison), work release, or electronic monitoring (house arrest), along with other probation terms. Whether or not a probation sentence is available depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

Strike Crime: Both mayhem, charged under PC 203, and aggravated mayhem, charged under PC 205, are considered serious and violent crimes, as those terms are defined in the California Three Strikes Sentencing Law. This means that if the defendant is convicted of mayhem, or aggravated mayhem, the defendant will be convicted of a strike offense and suffer the additional punishments:

  • Defendant will be convicted of a strike offense
  • Defendant will earn less good time credits while in prison (defendant must serve at least eighty-five percent (85%) of his or her prison sentence)
  • Defendant may suffer harsher punishment upon future criminal convictions
  • Be ineligible for early release on parole pursuant to Prop 57

In addition to any jail or prison sentence for convictions of mayhem or aggravated mayhem, the defendant could also be punished with any or all of the following: severe probation or parole terms, penalty and restitution fines, restraining orders, loss of employment (especially professional or occupational license discipline), loss of immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), loss of family law rights to child custody and adoption, civil lawsuits, and more.

Defenses to PC 203 & 205

There are dozens of defenses that might apply to a criminal charge of mayhem. The facts of the case will determine what defenses fit best for any particular case. The most common defenses to mayhem charges include, but are not limited to, the following: self-defense, defense of others, insanity, intoxication, alibi, mistake of facts, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, coerced confessions, illegal search and seizure, and more.

To learn more about the crime of mayhem, aggravated mayhem, or defenses to penal codes 203 and 205, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation.

Our successful attorneys are experienced with mayhem criminal charges, including all defenses to PC 203 and 205. We are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to assist you. Call today!


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PC 203 & 205: Mayhem & Aggravated Mayhem

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PC 203 & 205: Mayhem / Aggravated Mayhem

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Mayhem & Aggravated Mayhem 203 & 205, Related

  • Torture PC 206
  • Assault With A Deadly Weapon PC 245
  • Attempted Murder PC 664/187(a)

Updated 5/1/2017

California Mayhem and Aggravated Mayhem Law & Defense PC 203 & PC 205


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