Mayhem

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Background

The word "mayhem" is the older form of the word "maim."[1] Under common law, mayhem is the crime of maliciously injuring a person's body, especially to impair or destroy the victim's capacity for self-defense.[2] This is usually treated as part of aggravated battery under modern-day statutes. Mayhem has three elements: 1) a malicious and 2) unlawful act of physical force 3 which deprives a person of a member of his/her 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.[3] Mayhem may also refer to violent destruction or disruption.

Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code consolidates the crime of mayhem with the crime of assault in section 211.1. Mayhem is usually seen as constituting aggravated assault.[4]

Variation by Jurisdiction

California

In California, a person who "unlawfully and maliciously deprives 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, is guilty of mayhem."[5] A conviction for mayhem is punishable by imprisonment for two, four, or eight years. California also has the crime of aggravated mayhem, meaning that a person "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." Aggravated mayhem is categorized as a felony and is punishable by a sentence of life in prison.[6] In addition to both mayhem and aggravated mayhem, California Penal Code also includes the related crime of torture.[7]

Nevada

Under Title 15, section 200.280, an individual commits mayhem when she or he unlawfully deprives a "human being of a member of his or her body, or disfiguring or rendering it useless." This includes actions such as cutting out or disabling the tongue, slitting the nose, ear or lip, or disabling any limb or member of another, or voluntarily, or of purpose, putting out an eye.[8] The state categorizes it as a class B felony. A conviction of mayhem includes a sentence of imprisonment for two to ten years, and may be further enhanced by a fine of up to $10,000.

Common Defenses

Depending on the circumstances of a situation, a defense to mayhem may be that the defendant lacked the intent to cause harm or disfigurement to the victim. Though this will likely not discharge the defendant from all criminal liability, it may lessen the charge (i.e. from aggravated assault to assault).


See Crimes

Notes

  1. Maria Del Rio, J.D., Mayhem and Related Offenses, American Jurisprudence, 2nd edition (2010)
  2. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th edition (2009)
  3. Maria Del Rio, J.D., Mayhem and Related Offenses, American Jurisprudence, 2nd edition (2010)
  4. Model Penal Code, Explanatory Notes for Sections 211.1-211.3 (2009)
  5. CA Penal Code, Title 8, Chapter 2, § 203 (2008)
  6. CA Penal Code, Title 8, Chapter 2, § 205 (2008)
  7. CA Penal Code, Title 8, Chapter 2, § 206 (2008)
  8. Nevada Criminal Code, Title 15, Chapter 200, Section 280 (2009)