The Very Serious Crime of Mayhem

Mayhem isn’t a charge that you hear about a lot, but it could be considered one of the most serious charges. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, section 14 defines mayhem as:

Whoever, with malicious intent to maim or disfigure, cuts out or maims the tongue, puts out or destroys an eye, cuts or tears off an ear, cuts, slits or mutilates the nose or lip, or cuts off or disables a limb or member, of another person, [and whoever is privy to such intent, or is present and aids in the commission of such crime,] . . . shall be punished . . . .

The key to the charge is the intentional maiming of the human body. The punishment can be severe. If a person is found guilty of mayhem the person could serve up to twenty years in state prison. The incidents in which people are charged with mayhem usually have victims that have serious bodily injuries. People who are victims of real mayhems often have a body part severed from their body or really bad scars from purposeful disfigurement.

Sometimes, this charge is incorrectly placed on defendants. You will often see a person charged with this crime when a defendant bites another during a fight. Police often charge a person with mayhem if the bite leads to some type of disfigurement of the victim, i.e. scarring. However, for the most part it is difficult to prove that a defendant had the intention of maiming a person with his teeth during a fight. The prosecution can usually prove that the defendant meant to hurt the victim, but usually has a difficult to prove the defendant had to intent to permanently disfigure the victim in the heat of battle. Perhaps one of the most famous incidents to highlight was when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight.

Mayhem is crime not commonly heard, but has serious consequences for all of those involved. A defendant can face up to 20 years in prison, while the victim can spend the rest of their life disfigured.

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For more information: Massachusetts General Laws:

Teen charged with mayhem:

DSS head: Agency failed abused Middleboro boy:

Video of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear

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