California penal code section 12022.7 is an often-cited criminal charge, which is levied against a criminal defendant, when the defendant is alleged to have committed great bodily injury, or GBI, against another person during the commission of an underlying felony offense.
For example, David is alleged to have committed DUI that resulted in a car accident. The DUI-related car accident resulted in David’s passenger’s broken arm. Under this circumstance, David may be charged with felony DUI (VC 23153), and the criminal punishment enhancement of PC 12022.7 because of his passenger’s broken arm.
Great Bodily Injury Defined: Per PC 12022.7(f), “great bodily injury” means a significant or substantial physical injury. The code does not describe types of injuries that qualify as great bodily injury, but some injuries, such as broken bones, punctured organs, punctured skin, torn, burned, or abrased skin, and sprains, and any injury to a person’s brain, will likely qualify as great bodily injury. On the other hand, subjective reporting of pain related to internal soft-tissue injury, and without clearly defined injury, will not likely qualify as great bodily injury.
For example, David and Goliath are injured by Methuselah’s reckless evading from police (VC 2800.2), which resulted in a car crash. During the car crash, David suffers a broken leg and Goliath suffers a “seatbelt” bruise. In this circumstance, Methuselah will be charged with PC 12022.7 because of David’s broken leg, but Methuselah will not be charged with PC 12022.7 for Goliath’s seatbelt bruise.
Underlying Felony Offense Required: PC 12022.7 is not charged by itself; rather, the PC 12022.7 penalty enhancement is charged against a criminal defendant, and only alongside at least one other underlying felony offense. PC 12022.7 is not charged in civil court proceedings, even if the alleged victim suffered great bodily injury because of defendant’s criminal conduct.
Accomplice Not Covered: PC 12022.7 is charged where a victim is alleged to have suffered great bodily injury because of the defendant’s felonious conduct. If an accomplice to defendant’s criminal conduct suffers great bodily injury during the commission of a crime, then the district attorney does not charge penal code 12022.7 enhancements.
For example, David and Goliath rob a liquor store together. During the robbery, Goliath slips and falls on some spilled Cherry Slurpee. When Goliath falls, he breaks his arm. Both David and Goliath are caught and criminally charged with robbery (PC 211), but neither David, nor Goliath should be charged with great bodily injury enhancements per PC 12022.7 because Goliath is an accomplice to the robbery.
Intent for Injury Not Required: PC 12022.7 enhancements do not require the defendant to have purposefully injured the victim. For example, a defendant may be charged with committing great bodily injury against a victim in a felony DUI case, even if the defendant never intended to crash his car, much less injury another person. The same is true for domestic violence cases, elder abuse cases, assault cases, and so forth.
Personal Causation Required: PC 12022.7 is charged where the defendant personally caused great bodily injury to another person (not an accomplice) during the commission of an underlying felony offense. However, the causation of great bodily injury may be indirect.
For example, David robs Goliath. During the robbery, Goliath runs from David. During his flight from David, Goliath falls and breaks his arm. In this circumstance, David may be charged with PC 12022.7 enhancements even though the great bodily injury to Goliath is indirect causation.
Note: PC 12022.7 allegations are not charged where the alleged offense includes great bodily injury, such as the crimes of murder, voluntary manslaughter, arson causing injury, reckless burning causing injury, hit and run causing injury, etc. (PC 12022.7(g) Abbrev.).
Finally, “great bodily injury,” “severe bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” all have different meanings under California law. Severe bodily injury is covered in PC 12022.7(b) and deals with injuries that are usually permanent, including brain injuries, great bodily injury is injury that is less than severe, but more than serious, and “serious bodily injury” is usually attached to a criminal charge of battery, as opposed to a separate criminal charge itself. For more information on these differences, see Criminal Penalty Enhancements.
PC 12022.7 Penalties
A “great bodily injury” enhancement is always connected to an underlying felony, and the enhancement itself is a separate felony offense. The penalties associated with the PC 12022.7 enhancement charge depend on the circumstances of the case. Consider the following:
PC 12022.7(a) Prison Sentence: Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice, in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three (3) years.
For example, if the defendant is charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245), and the defendant's assault resulted in GBI to the victim, then defendant could face up to nine (7) years in prison (4 years for the ADW, plus 3 years for the PC 12022.7(a) allegation).
PC 12022.7(b) Prison Sentence: Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice, in the commission of a felony or attempted felony which causes the victim to become comatose due to brain injury or to suffer paralysis of a permanent nature shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years.
Note: Per PC 12022.7(b) “paralysis” means a major or complete loss of motor function resulting from injury to the nervous system or to a muscular mechanism (PC 12022.7(b) allegations are more commonly known as “severe bodily injury” enhancements, as opposed to “great bodily injury” enhancements).
PC 12022.7(c): Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a person who is 70 years of age or older, other than an accomplice, in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. For more information, see Elder Abuse Crimes.
PC 12022.7(d): Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a child under the age of five years in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for four, five, or six years. For more information, see Child Abuse Crimes.
PC 12022.7(e): Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three, four, or five years. For more information, see Domestic Battery & Inflict Corporal Injury to Spouse Crimes.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision, as opposed to a jail or prison sentence. A probation sentence is allowed in PC 12022.7 cases, but only in cases of “unusual circumstances.” What qualifies as “unusual circumstances” is determined on a case-by-case bases. But certainly, the defendant’s criminal history, the sophistication of the underlying felony, the remorse shown by the defendant, if any, and the level of injury caused to the victim, will be considered.
Felony Probation: If the defendant is granted a probation sentence after a PC 12022.7 conviction, then that probation sentence will be monitored by a felony probation officer (formal probation), and the terms of probation, also known as “probation conditions,” will be crafted to meet the needs of both public safety and some level of punishment to the defendant. For more information, see Felony Probation.
PC 1170(h) Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted of a PC 12022.7 enhancement charge, and he is not granted a probation sentence, then he must serve his incarceration in a California state prison, as opposed to a local county jail, and no part of his prison sentence may be split (served partially out of prison on work release), or suspended (not served unless and until the defendant violates a condition of his out-of-custody sentence). For more information, see PC 1170(h) Sentencing.
Underlying Crime & Probation Sentence: A probation sentence after a conviction of PC 12022.7 is also conditioned on the underlying offense probation eligibility.
For example, if the defendant is convicted of PC 288(b), lewd act on a minor with force, and an enhancement charge of PC 12022.7(d), then the defendant may not receive a probation sentence even if the judge finds that unusual circumstance exist that otherwise would allow a probation sentence. This is because the underlying offense of PC 288(b) does not allow a probation sentence after conviction.
Three Strikes Application: PC 12022.7 allegations are generally considered “strike” allegations under California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law (PC 1192.7). However, when the underlying crime is also a strike allegation, the defendant is normally charged with only one strike, as opposed to two strikes.
For example, the crime of assault with a firearm (PC 245(a)(2), is a strike offense, but if the defendant is also charged with committing great bodily injury (GBI), along with the PC 245(a)(2) charges, then the defendant will normally suffer only one strike upon conviction. There are some exceptions to this rule for plea bargaining purposes.
Additional Punishment: In addition to a possible prison or probation sentence, if found guilty of PC 12022.7, the defendant will suffer direct and indirect consequences relating to immigration status (for non-US citizens), military service, professional licensing, court fees and fines, restitution to victims, civil lawsuits, criminal protective orders in favor of victims, harsh probation or parole conditions, loss of firearm rights, loss of vehicle privileges (if vehicle used in underlying felony offense), and more.
PC 12022.7 Defenses
Defenses to PC 12022.7 allegations include any of the following:
Defense to the Underlying Felony: If the underlying felony related to a great bodily injury penalty enhancement incorporates a successful defense, then the PC 12022.7 allegation cannot stand. For example, if the defendant is charged with domestic violence against his wife (PC 273.5(a)), and he alleged to have committed great bodily injury during his criminal conduct (PC 12022.7(e)), then a successful defense to the PC 273.5(a) allegations will lead to the dismissal of the GBI allegation.
Note: Every underlying felony to a PC 12022.7 allegation is different, and supported by different facts; therefore, the defense to the underlying felony is different in every case. For more information, see Common Defenses to Alleged Criminal Conduct.
Reclassification of Crime: In some cases, the underlying felony to a PC 12022.7 enhancement may be reduced to a misdemeanor. When this occurs, the PC 12022.7 enhancement should be dismissed. For example, if the defendant is charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, which result in great bodily injury to another person, and the defendant is successful in his petition to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor charge, then the PC 12022.7 allegations should be dismissed. For more information, see “Wobbler” Crimes.
Injury is Not "Great": A defense to great bodily injury enhancement can include a showing by the defense that the injury does not qualify as “great.” This is more common with injuries that are “soft tissue,” “soreness,” or “bruising.” But keep in mind that what is considered “great bodily injury” is determined on a case-by-case basis, and even slight scratches, soreness, abrasions, swelling, or black eye, can be considered “great bodily injury” depending on the circumstances of the case.
No Causation: Injury that is not personally caused by the defendant is not charged to the defendant in PC 12022.7 cases. As stated, indirect injury may support PC 12022.7 allegations, but there must be at least some connection to the defendant’s personal conduct, and the injury must have occurred during the defendant’s crime. For example, a victim who suffers a heart attack during a robbery will support PC 12022.77 allegations, but a husband who suffers a heart attack after learning that his wife was attacked while husband was nowhere near the attack, will not support PC 12022.7 charges.
Other Common Defenses: The possible defenses to the underlying felony related to PC 12022.7 allegations numerous, and they include self-defense, alibi defense, illegal search and seizure, coerced confession, entrapment, duress, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, necessity, insanity, intoxication, defense of others, and much more.
Plea Bargaining: It is not uncommon for a defendant to make a plea bargain with the district attorney, whereby the defendant agrees to plea guilty to the underlying felony offense in exchange for the district attorney’s promise to not pursue the great bodily injury enhancement. Whether a defendant should, or should not plea, accordingly, depends on many factors, including a review of the strengths and weaknesses of the district attorney’s case, the defendant’s personal goals, and many other factors. For more information, see Plea Bargaining in Criminal Cases.
For more information on the penalty enhancement of penal code 12022.7, including PC 12022.7(a) 12022.7(b) (“Great Bodily Injury” [GBI]), contact our felony criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our team of award-winning criminal defense attorneys, including successful trial attorneys, have handled thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in the Inland Empire, including the cites of Victorville, Redlands, Ontario, Fontana, Rialto, Chino, Riverside, Moreno Valley, Banning, Yucaipa, Highland, San Bernardino, and Rancho Cucamonga. Call today!