Aggravated Mayhem Under Penal Code 205 Explained

This article explains the law in California

Aggravated Mayhem punishes the act of maliciously causing disability or disfigurement to another’s body with extreme indifference to their physical or psychological well-being.  A defendant can be convicted for aggravated mayhem even if he does not intend to kill the victim.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Aggravated Mayhem?

To prove that the defendant is guilty of aggravated mayhem under penal code 205, the prosecution must prove the following facts or elements:1

  • The defendant unlawfully and maliciously2 disabled or disfigured someone permanently3 or deprived someone else of a limb, organ, or part of his/her body;
  • When the defendant acted, he/she intended to permanently disable or disfigure the other person or deprive the other person of a limb, organ, or part of his/her body4; AND
  • Under the circumstances, the defendant’s act showed extreme indifference to the physical or psychological well-being of the other person.
  • Kicking the victim with your foot after stabbing the victim
  • Holding the victim down while stabbing the victim
  • Taunting the victim after having seriously injured the victim

Who Can Be Charged With Aggravated Mayhem?

Under California Penal Code section 205, anyone who disfigures or disables another’s body, doing so with extreme indifference to their wellbeing can be charged with aggravated mayhem.

If the disability ends up being prolonged but temporary, it could be sufficient for a conviction under this offense.  Additionally, if the disfiguring injury may be repaired by medical procedures, it could be sufficient for a conviction under this offense.

Importantly, the defendant is not required to have intent to kill; intent to maim is sufficient.


After capturing and tying up the victim, James bit through his victim’s lower lip.  As the victim was bleeding profusely on the floor, James held the victim down and stabbed the victim in the thigh several times.

The lip was subsequently reconstructed through plastic surgery, but for the purpose of penal code section 205 pc, the act was sufficient for an aggravated mayhem conviction.

How Can You Fight Aggravated Mayhem?

There are several defenses that your attorney can assert on your behalf to fight a charge of aggravated mayhem.  Here are the most common ones:

justice statue
Self Defense

If a defendant maimed another person while trying to defend oneself or another, he/she will not be charged with the offense.  To succeed on this defense, the defendant must show that his/her actions resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm.

The degree of force used in self-defense or defense of others must be proportional to the threat perceived, and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm.  Mere words or insults do not suffice.


Keith and Joanna got into a fight and Keith grabbed a kitchen knife and tried to stab Joanna in the stomach.  Fearing for her life, Joanna grabbed a hot iron and threw it at Keith’s face, causing Keith to suffer a nose fracture and a severe face burn.  In this case, although Joanna intended to inflict the injury onto Keith, she did so to save his life.  Because the use of deadly force was justified in this instance, Joanna is not going to be charged with aggravated mayhem.


If a defendant accidentally disfigures or disables another person without doing so maliciously, he/she cannot be charged with aggravated mayhem.


David and Jerry (father and son) were fixing David’s car that was parked in front of the house.  They kept arguing about what was wrong with the car and Jerry said that he was fed up with trying to explain things to his father, so he went inside the house.

Thinking Jerry was inside the house, David walked over to the hood of the car and started checking on the timing belt, as he was convinced it was the problem.

Unbeknownst to David, Jerry came back and started the car to listen to the motor because he thought the motor was the problem.  As Jerry started the car, David’s index finger was severed by the force of the timing belt.

Although David and Jerry were arguing, Jerry did not maliciously hurt David; rather, when he started the car, he did not know that David was checking on the timing belt.  Therefore, Jerry would not be charged with aggravated mayhem.

Penalties & Punishment For Aggravated Mayhem?

Aggravated mayhem is a felony and is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole and/or a $10,000 fine.

Murder resulting from aggravated mayhem

If a defendant kills the victim as a result of a serious injury, even if the defendant did not intend to kill the victim, the defendant will be still be charged. Diana Aizman a los angeles murder attorney  explains that 1st degree murder under penal code 187 will be charged in this scenerio.

Related Offenses

How We Can Help

We have significant experience defending clients charged under california penal code 205 and in consultation with our clients we come up with the most effective defense strategy for your case.

If after readig this article you would like to speak to an  attorney contact us at 818-351-9555 for a free consultation.

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  1. Penal Code 205 []
  2. Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.  Malicious Defined. Pen. Code, § 7, subd. 4; People v. Lopez (1986) 176 Cal.App.3d 545, 550 [222 Cal.Rptr. 101]. []
  3. A disfiguring injury may be permanent even if it can be repaired by medical procedures.  Permanent Disfigurement. See People v. Hill (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 1566, 1571 [28 Cal.Rptr.2d 783]; see also People v. Newble (1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 444, 451 [174 Cal.Rptr. 637] [head is member of body for purposes of disfigurement]. []
  4. “Aggravated mayhem . . . requires the specific intent to cause the maiming injury.  Evidence that shows no more than an ‘indiscriminate attack’ is insufficient to prove the required specific intent.  ((People v. Park (2000) 112 Cal.App.4th 61, 64 [4 Cal.Rptr.3d 815]. []

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