Prosecutors rarely pursue mayhem charges in Wisconsin. But that doesn’t mean this charge isn’t serious. Mayhem is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison and $100,000.00 in fines. Comparing this penalty to other crimes, mayhem lands among sexual assault, armed robbery, and homicide penalties. Just because the crime has a funny name you haven’t heard of certainly doesn’t mean you should take it any less seriously. Contact our mayhem defense law firm.
Meyer Van Severen, S.C. is a criminal defense law firm based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Peers and clients consistently recognize our criminal defense attorneys as some of the best in Wisconsin. Whether you hire one of our associates or a partner, you’re in good hands facing serious criminal charges.
Finally, if you face mayhem (or any other criminal) charges, do not hesitate to contact us immediately: (414) 270-0202.
Section 940.21 of the Wisconsin Statutes states that:
“Whoever, with intent to disable or disfigure another, cuts or mutilates the tongue, eye, ear, nose, lip, limb or other bodily member of another is guilty of a Class C felony.”
While this is certainly straightforward, the law includes a few technical terms. Looking at the jury instructions helps to clarify the law further.
Wisconsin Jury Instruction Criminal 1246 explains mayhem. The law breaks down into three elements:
The jury instruction also defines a few terms:
In State v. Quintana, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin clarified the phrase “other bodily member”:
The manner in which the legislature used the phrase, ‘other bodily member,’ requires that we give that phrase a broad construction. If ‘other bodily member’ were to be narrowly construed, the construction would produce absurd results, and the purpose of the statute would easily be defeated. Because the legislature intended the phrase ‘other bodily member’ to be construed broadly rather than narrowly, the phrase ‘other bodily member’ in the mayhem statute encompasses all bodily parts, including a person’s forehead. The application of the mayhem statute is limited by the need to prove that a person specifically intended to disable or disfigure.
What does this mean to defendants? The statute itself, when it refers to “other bodily member” includes any body part. The limiting factor focuses on what the defendant intended to disable or disfigure. If the defendant did not intend to disable or disfigure the victim, mayhem has not occurred. Proving mayhem is easier, and more commonly done, with certain bodily parts (for example, when someone intends to, and bites off, an ear). In Quintana, the court found that a forehead qualified as an “other bodily member.”
Further, the Court of Appeals in Wisconsin in Kirby v. State determined that in order to sustain a conviction, it must be shown that for an injury to constitute mayhem, the injury must be one of “great bodily harm.” The mere nick with a knife does not qualify as mayhem. The court came to its conclusion based on an analysis of common law, which required that it be shown that the mayhem affected one’s combat ability. Although today’s law clearly doesn’t require that it be shown the victim’s battling abilities be compromised, a simple cut doesn’t qualify.
Although mayhem is not a common charge in Wisconsin, the criminal defense attorneys at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. can help you. The firm has fought mayhem charges for clients in the past. We can certainly help you.
Contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. immediately. Once we complete an initial consultation and decide to move forward, we’ll begin figuring out exactly how to defend your case. Trial? We can help. Pre-trial motions? We can also certainly help. Call (414) 270-0202.