In the United States, two types of laws are meant to punish wrongdoing or compensate victims of bad acts. These two types of laws are known as civil law and criminal law.
Civil law is the set of laws that address behavior that causes bodily injury to an individual or other private party through private civil lawsuits. Penalties for any parties found liable for violating civil laws are generally monetary. However, civil penalties can also include court-ordered remedies such as an injunction or a restraining order.
Criminal law is the set of written laws that address behavior considered an offense against society, the state, or the public. Criminal penalties generally include criminal fines, prison sentences, or a combination of both.
Regardless of whether or not someone is being charged with a serious or a minor crime, the accused person has the constitutional right to a trial and certain other legal protections, which are further discussed below.
Additionally, the charges brought against the individual must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Is Bodily Injury?
Bodily injury refers to causing an individual either permanent or temporary physical harm. The harm that may be inflicted could include serious bodily harm, such as severing a limb, disfigurement, or organ damage.
Temporary harm is any bodily injury from which an individual can recover in less than one year. Actions leading to either temporary or permanent physical harm can result in criminal charges in the state of Nevada. In Nevada, one example of a bodily injury crime that an individual can be charged with is the crime of mayhem.
What Is the Crime of Mayhem?
The crime of mayhem is defined in the Nevada Revised Statutes. The exact definition for mayhem in the Statutes is a criminal act consisting of unlawfully depriving a human being of:
- A member of their body; or
- Disfiguring or rendering their body useless.
For example, if a person cuts out or disables another person’s tongue, puts out their eye, slits their nose, ear, or lip, or disables any limb or member of another person’s body, that would be considered mayhem.
Importantly, the state prosecution doesn’t need to prove that a weapon was involved in charging or convicting someone of the crime of mayhem. A simple punch or kick that resulted in a permanent handicap or deformity will be enough to qualify as mayhem in Nevada.
Further, disfigurement in Nevada is considered permanent even if physical therapy or cosmetic surgery could correct it. This means that so long as the injury would last forever without the therapy or surgery, it would qualify as a permanent injury under Nevada mayhem law. However, if the injury is only temporary, such as a broken bone, the defendant would face battery charges to any degree.
Finally, to convict a defendant of mayhem, it must be proven that the defendant acted maliciously to commit mayhem. Importantly, Nevada courts will presume there is malice if the victim’s permanent disfigurement was a natural course of the defendant’s actions. As such, the prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant intended to maim or permanently disfigure the victim.
What Are the Criminal Penalties for the Crime of Mayhem in Nevada?
In Nevada, mayhem is a category B felony. It is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years, a maximum term of not more than 10 years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or a combination of both.
Is the Crime of Mayhem the Same as the Crime of Assault or Battery?
In short, the crime of mayhem is not the same as assault or battery in Nevada. In Nevada, assault is the criminal act of causing someone fear of bodily harm or imminent battery. A battery is defined as unlawful use of force, such as a punch. A battery crime may be classified as either a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, category C felony, or category B felony, depending on the case’s specifics.
However, it is important to note that a battery does not need to result in any permanent injury. Instead, all that is required to convict an individual accused of battery is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they non-consensually used force or violence against the victim. However, a permanent injury must be inflicted to be charged with mayhem.
The Nevada Revised Statutes provide that if upon the criminal trial for mayhem, it should appear that the injury inflicted will not result in any permanent disfiguration of appearance, diminution of vigor, or other permanent injuries, the individual accused of mayhem shall not be charged with the crime of mayhem. Instead, the defendant may be charged with assault to any degree.
Are There Any Legal Defenses to the Crime of Mayhem?
Yes, there are many legal defenses that an individual may assert in order to have the charges brought against them for mayhem either reduced or dropped completely. The three most common legal defenses available for individuals charged with the crime of mayhem are:
- Self-Defense: The most common defense to charges of criminal mayhem is that the defendant acted in self-defense when they caused the alleged victim permanent bodily harm.
- Nevada law permits individuals to fight back with reasonable force if they are in immediate danger.
- For example, if an individual is walking home and another individual pulls a knife on them and begins to attack them, and then that individual pulls out a gun and shoots at their face destroying their ear, then the individual that discharged the firearm could claim self-defense in any future criminal charges brought against them;
- Accident: The next most common legal defense to the crime of mayhem is that the bodily injury caused to the victim resulted from an accident.
- If the defendant can successfully prove that the bodily injury resulted from an accident, then the prosecution will not be able to prove that the defendant acted maliciously. If the prosecution cannot prove the criminal element of malice, then criminal mayhem charges must be dropped.
- For example, if an individual is at an archery range, and another individual barges out onto the field suddenly to retrieve an arrow and gets hit in the eye by the defendant’s arrow, then the defendant can claim that the eye disfigurement was a result of an accident. In this case, the defendant had no intention ever to harm the individual, and as such, no criminal action occurred; or
- The Injury Is Not Permanent: Mayhem charges may only be brought when victims have sustained permanent injuries. As such, injuries that can heal, such as a broken bone, cannot be charged as criminal mayhem.
It is important to note that simply because a defendant cannot be charged with criminal mayhem does not mean they cannot be charged with another crime. For example, if an injury is not permanent, such as a broken bone, that defendant may still be charged with criminal battery. However, an individual cannot be charged simultaneously with the crimes of battery and mayhem, as that would be considered double jeopardy.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Nevada Mayhem?
If you have been accused of the crime of mayhem in Nevada, you should immediately consult with an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney. An experienced Nevada criminal defense lawyer is essential in order to ensure that your legal rights are upheld throughout the entire criminal process.
Additionally, an experienced attorney can review the facts of your specific case to determine whether or not you may legally be charged with the crime of mayhem, or if there is a legal defense that can be asserted to lessen or reduce your charges. Finally, an attorney can also represent you at any criminal hearing.