The Crime of Torture - Penal Code 206 PC
The crime of torture in California is defined under Penal Code 206 PC as intentionally inflicting great bodily injury on someone to cause extreme pain and suffering for revenge, extortion, or even a sadistic purpose.
While torture is similar to mayhem under defined Penal Code 203 PC, the primary difference is motivation. PC 206 legally defines torture as motivation “for the purpose of revenge, extortion, or persuasion.”
This means without motivation or intent to cause serious pain and suffering; you can't be convicted of the crime of torture. It also means that just the “intent” to cause pain and suffering is sufficient for a conviction. In other words, the actual infliction of pain to not an element of the crime.
In the dangerous climate of today, we are forced to consider many types of harm that can occur. While a torture case filed by a prosecutor is not common, they do occur.
For example, torture could include a situation of an armed robbery at a convenience store. Once the clerk gives the robber all the cash from the register, the perpetrator notices a small safe tucked away under the counter.
He demands the clerk to open the safe, but they refuse to cooperate. The robber proceeds to start pistol-whipping the store clerk until they finally open the safe.
In this scenario, the robber can be charged with the serious crime of Penal Code 206 PC torture and the underlying robbery crime under Penal Code Section 211 PC. A violation of PC 206 is always a felony crime. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic more closely below.
What is the Definition of Torture?
As noted above, in California, torture is defined under Penal Code 206 as follows:
- Anyone who, with the intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or any sadistic purpose, inflicts great bodily injury defined under Section 12022.7 upon a person of another, is guilty of torture.
Torture is an elevated form of assault that adds other factors into the equation and has three main parts listed below.
First, the accused has to inflict great bodily harm on another. Great bodily harm is defined explicitly under Section 12022.7 as a significant injury such as a bone fracture. Second, the accused must have the intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering.
Third, the accused must have done this with the purpose of exacting revenge, forcing someone to do or agree to something, extortion, or any sadistic reason.
As noted, it is essential to understand that a victim is not required to prove that they suffered any pain for an accused to be convicted of torture under California law.
Torture can occur from a single act or through a course of conduct. Extortion arises when an accused obtains another's property with their consent obtained by force. A sadistic reason in California is defined as an individual inflicting pain on another to pleasure themselves.
What Are the Penalties for Penal Code 206 Conviction?
The crime of torture is a serious felony in California and a conviction could result in a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If they are sentenced to life in prison, there is a possibility of parole. State law gives judges broad latitude to determine the appropriate sentencing.
Torture convictions are not eligible for expungement in California. An individual who is not a citizen can be deported or found inadmissible. A torture conviction would also count as a “strike” under California's three-strike law.
What Are California Crimes Associated with Torture?
The crimes associated with torture can be found within the California Penal Code. They are listed and explained below.
Mayhem – Penal Code 203 PC: The crime of mayhem in California is defined explicitly as doing one of the following acts with malice:
- Depriving a victim of the use of a body member, such as an arm or hand;
- Disabling or disfiguring a member of a victim's body;
- Cutting a victim's tongue;
- Putting out the eye of a victim; and
- Cutting a victim's face.
A conviction can lead to a prison sentence of two, four, or eight years depending on the circumstances, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated mayhem – Penal Code 205 PC: A mayhem charge can be elevated to an aggravated mayhem charge if the accused intentionally caused someone a permanent disability or disfigurement.
An aggravated mayhem charge can also be based on the accused depriving a victim of a limb, member, or organ. A conviction can lead to a life sentence in prison with the chance of parole.
Aggravated battery – Penal Code 243d: This criminal charge can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
A crime charged as a misdemeanor or felony is also known as a “wobbler” offense. Individuals are guilty of aggravated battery if they commit a battery that causes severe bodily injury. Battery is defined as a harmful or offensive touching of another.
Corporal injury on an intimate partner – Penal Code 273.5 PC: This crime is also commonly known as domestic violence. If an accused causes any injury to a spouse or housemate, whether serious or minor, they can be charged and convicted of corporal injury on an intimate partner. This charge can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
Torture Act - 18 U.S.C. 2340: This is the federal statute on torture and can be filed in certain situations when the crime was committed outside the United States. A conviction carries up to 20 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. If someone was killed, they could receive a life sentence in prison of the death penalty.
What Are the Legal Defenses to Torture?
There are several defenses to a torture charge that might be available. The prosecutor must prove criminal intent to secure a conviction for torture. If the accused did not act with the intent to cause cruel or extreme pain, then a lack of intent can be a legal defense.
Recall in the legal definition of torture that you must have the motivation to cause cruel or extreme pain and inflict great bodily injury for these purposes. If we can cast reasonable doubt by showing a lack of motivation, your chances increase for a favorable outcome.
If an individual was not of the right state of mind to form criminal intent, legal insanity could also be a legal defense.
Finally, if the accused acted in self-defense, they could be adequately acquitted of a torture crime. Perhaps you were protecting yourself from imminent harm and forced to take action to protect yourself or others. The defenses that may be available are based on the facts and circumstances of each case.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County. You can contact us for an initial consultation by calling (877) 781-1570 or filling out our contact form.