Assault is the act of threatening to cause injury on another person with the intention to do so and does not require the assaulter to inflict actual harm or injury. The prerequisite for such a charge being that the other person is aware of such threat and the consequential harm and that the assaulter is in a position to carry out such assault. If an assault is committed intentionally, then such act of felony amounts to mayhem within the purview of Section 220 of the California Penal Code which penalizes the act with imprisonment for a period up to 6 years. The elements needed to prove an assault amounting to mayhem include
(i) A person threatened another person of inflicting physical harm by applying force intentionally and unlawfully.
(ii) When the assault was committed, the accused should have been in a position to commit the act by applying such physical force.
(iii) The victim was aware that the assaulter is capable of causing physical harm or injury and that threatened him of dire consequences.
Assault and Aggravated Forms of Mayhem
In the case of assault, if the act resulted in the harm of a person other than the one intended, the law presumes that the act has been successfully committed. The assaulter will be penalized in the same manner and as if he had assaulted the original target disregarding the fact that the intention of the assaulter was not to harm the victim.
The Penal Code in Section 205 recognizes the act of aggravated mayhem as an act of felony. The accused would have committed the act in fullest legal description by unlawfully, intentionally and with disregard to the physical and mental wellbeing of the person. Such an act could cause the victim to sustain permanent disfigurement or disability such as loss of limb, an organ or member of this body.
The section does not require the perpetrator to have acted with the intent to kill within the description of the statute.
The punishment for aggravated mayhem is imprisonment with the possibility of parole. It is for the prosecution to prove the intention of the defendant to cause permanent disability of disfigurement to the victim.
Assault is one legal term that suffers misinterpretation and misrepresentation in criminal prosecution and the onus is on the legal community to ensure that the statute is rightly applied. Hope this clarifies your questions regarding and if you are still shrouded by doubts, please talk to a criminal legal practitioner.