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Mayhem Law & Defense
PC 203 & 205 Crimes

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 


PC 203 & 205 Law

PC 203 Mayhem: It is a crime to deprive a human being of a member of his body, or to disable, disfigure, or render a member of his body it useless, or cuts or disables the tongue, or puts out an eye, or slits the nose, ear, or lip (Abbrev.).

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 disfigured someone

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

PC 205 Aggravated Mayhem: It is a crime to intentionally cause 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 Abbrev.).

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.


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 is a period of supervision without a prison sentence. Probation sentences may be available in some mayhem or aggravated mayhem 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.

PC 1170(h) Sentence: If the defendant is found guilty of either PC 203 or 205, and he or she is not granted a probation sentence, then he or she must serve his or her incarceration in an actual prison, as opposed to a local county jail. In addition, no part of that prison sentence may be split or suspended.

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 California's 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, including:

  • 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, and more

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: Penalty and restitution fines and fees, 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.

Mayhem Defenses

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. Common defenses to mayhem charges include, but are not limited to: self defense, defense of others, insanity, intoxication, mistake of facts, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, coerced confessions, illegal search, 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 and we are available seven days a week to assist you. Call today!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Mayhem

Code: PC 203 & 205 (CalCrim No. 800-801)

Wobbler: No. The crime of mayhem is not a wobbler, which means that this crime is only charged as a felony.​


Incarceration: ​PC 203 prison sentence range: 2, 4, or 8 years (if probation not granted). PC 205 [Aggravated Mayhem] Sentence is life in prison (if probation not granted).

Probation: Probation is available in both PC 203 & 205 cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

PC 1170(h)): No. PC 203 & 205 are not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a felony conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.

Strike: PC 203 & 205 are strike offenses per California's Three Strikes law because these crimes are considered Serious offenses (PC 1192.7), and Violent offenses (667.5(c). Strike offenses are subject to reduced good time credits in jail or prison and other penalty enhancements upon subsequent criminal convictions.

Credits: 15% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 203 & 205 are crimes involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: PC 203 & 205 convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $100,000 (PC 203); $1,000,000 (PC 205) (San Bernardino)

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