Many of us have heard the term mayhem, but most people don’t realize what it actually refers to in a legal sense.

What is the legal definition of Mayhem?

Nevada Revised Statute 200.280 defines Mayhem.

“Mayhem consist of unlawfully depriving a human being a member of his or her body, or disfiguring or rendering it useless. If a person cuts out or disables the tongue, puts out an eye, slits the nose, ear or lip, or disables any limb or member of another, or voluntarily, or of purpose, puts out an eye, that person is guilty of mayhem which is a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.00.”

In other words, while “mayhem” is often used as a synonym for chaos or disorder, in legal parlance, “mayhem” refers to an extremely serious battery where the victim is deprived of a part of his body.

NRS 200.280 gives a number of examples for when “mayhem” may be charged, including:

  • Cutting out or disabling the tongue;
  • Putting out an eye;
  • Slitting the nose, ear or lip; or
  • Disabling any limb.

However, it is important to note that mayhem can be charged any time two conditions exist:

  1. There must be a permanent disfiguration or deprivation of a body part; and
  2. The conduct that caused the injury was done with malice.

What do you mean by “permanent disfiguration or deprivation”?

The first condition simply means the injury is permanent and that it is either a loss of a limb, or that the victim’s limb was disfigured.

Please Note: An injury is considered permanent so long as it would be permanent without extensive treatment, whether through physical therapy or surgery. As such, a broken bone is not considered permanent, but a scar could be.

Okay, what do you mean be “malice”?

Malice is a requirement for a “mayhem” charge. Essentially, it means that the victim’s injuries were a natural result of your conduct. Even if you did not intend to cause the disfigurement or dismemberment, the court presumes such an intent because your conduct shows that you were not trying to avoid such a result.

Please Note: It does not matter what means are used to inflict the injury. Use of a weapon is not necessary to be guilty of “mayhem.” For example, biting off someone’s ear, or gouging out their eye with your finger are both examples of “mayhem.” In fact, use of a weapon may lead to enhancement penalties as described here.

What are the possible penalties?

As you may have noticed in the statute, “mayhem” is a Category B felony, which means that it carries a penalty of

  • Between 2 and 10 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
  • The possibility of fines up to $10,000.00.

Are there any Defenses?

There are always defenses that might apply to your situation.

  • No Malice – As noted above, malice is a requirement in a conviction for “mayhem.” If the prosecutor cannot prove that your conduct was intentional, or that you were aware that permanent disfigurement or dismemberment were a likely result of your conduct, then mayhem is not appropriate.
  • Self-defense – If your conduct falls within the definition of self-defense, then the prosecution cannot prove that you were acting with malice, and the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
  • No permanent injury – If the prosecution cannot show that the victim’s injuries are permanent, then the charges against you should, at the very least, be lessened to assault.
  • Over-charging – If you have been charged with both “mayhem” and “battery with substantial bodily harm” for the same conduct, then the court will have to drop one of the charges because they are redundant charges.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with Mayhem?

As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.

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