Torture Defense Lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. Use Proven Strategies

Aaron Spolin

Torture defense attorney Aaron Spolin has a history of success with cases like yours. Call him today at (310) 424-5816.

Torture in California is a narrowly defined crime that requires a specific intent and motivation in injuring another. Because of these special requirements, the state does not often charge a person with the crime of torture, instead relying on similar crimes such as aggravated battery or mayhem.

It’s important to work with a torture defense attorney who understands the California Penal Code and has strategies geared to win your case. Award-winning attorney Aaron Spolin and his legal team at Spolin Law P.C. use the following strategies in court: (1) file effective legal motions to request that the court exclude key evidence and dismiss the case; (2) evaluate all evidence possible and use it to support the case; (3) develop strong defenses and present them to the jury. Mr. Spolin has used these strategies to win many cases. (Every case is unique, and prior success is not a “guarantee” of the same outcome on a future case.)

To find out how these strategies might work in your case, call Mr. Spolin and his team of dedicated lawyers at the law firm of Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816.


Definition and Elements of Torture

In California, torture is defined by Penal Code 206 as causing great bodily injury while acting with the intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose. The victim need not actually suffer pain as a result of the torture; it is enough that the aggressor intended to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering.

Proof of torture requires establishing the following elements:

  1. The defendant inflicted great bodily injury on someone else;
  2. When inflicting the injury, the defendant intended to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering;
  3. The defendant acted for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose.

What Is Great Bodily Injury?

Torture requires that a person inflict “great bodily injury” on another. Great bodily injury is an injury that is significant or substantial. It must be more than minor or moderate harm. The injury need not be permanent so long as it is more than minor or moderate.

Broken and smashed teeth, a split lip, and a facial cut are sufficient evidence of great bodily injury. Other injuries considered serious bodily injuries include:

  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Wounds that require stitches
  • Disfigurement
  • Concussion
  • Impairment of organ function
  • Loss of consciousness

Intent to Cause Cruel or Extreme Pain and Suffering

A person commits torture only if they injured another with the specific intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering. If the person intended only to injure another, they cannot be convicted of torture.

However, a person injuring another does not have to act with willful, deliberate, or premeditated intent. As long as they intend to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering, this element of the crime of torture is established.

Additionally, the person need not have intended to cause prolonged pain. In fact, the victim need not have experienced any pain or suffering. The intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering is sufficient to establish this element of the crime, although the victim must still suffer great bodily injury. Circumstantial evidence, such as the manner in which the aggressor inflicted the injury, can establish intent.

Although the term “torture” invokes images of particularly depraved acts, torture in California does not require showing “uniquely vicious behavior” or “evilness.” If the aggressor intended cruel or extreme pain and suffering, they can be convicted of torture.

The brevity of an attack does not negate a finding of intent. On the other hand, severely injuring a person in an “explosion of violence” or an “act of animal fury” would not support a charge of torture. The person inflicting the injuries must have intended to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering and not just injury.

Motivation for Causing Injury

To be convicted of torture, a person must have been inflicted the injury for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose. Although other crimes involving injury to others, such as battery and mayhem, are not concerned with the motive of the aggressor, torture focuses on the mental state of the person inflicting the injury and requires a particular motive. If a person injures another but is not motivated to do so out of revenge or sadistic purposes or for the purpose of extortion or persuasion, he or she cannot be convicted of torture.

What Is Extortion?

Extortion, for the purposes of the torture statute, includes obtaining property or something else of value from another through the use of force or fear. If, for example, a person causes great bodily injury to a store clerk in forcing them to open a safe, that person may be charged with torture if they acted with the requisite intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering.

Extortion also includes making a public official perform an official act through the use of force or fear.

What Is Sadistic Purpose?

A person acts with a sadistic purpose if they intend to inflict pain on someone else for their own pleasure. A sadistic purpose may be shown by circumstantial evidence, including the manner in which the crime was committed and the injuries inflicted. Although a sadistic purpose may include sexual gratification, it is not limited to such gratification.

If you have questions about charges in your case, Spolin Law P.C. has answers for you. Call Mr. Spolin and his team of legal professionals at (310) 424-5816.

  1. Definition and Elements of Torture
  2. Penalties for Violation of PC 206
  3. Defenses to Torture Charges
  4. Other Offenses Related to Torture
  5. Learn How a Torture Defense Attorney Can Help You

Penalties for Violation of PC 206

Torture is a significant felony in California. It is punished by life in prison. It is considered both a “serious” crime and a “violent” crime and therefore a strike under California’s three-strike rule.

  1. Definition and Elements of Torture
  2. Penalties for Violation of PC 206
  3. Defenses to Torture Charges
  4. Other Offenses Related to Torture
  5. Learn How a Torture Defense Attorney Can Help You

Defenses to Torture Charges

Attorneys Aaron Spolin and Don Nguyen discussing legal strategies | Spolin Law P.C.

The California criminal defense attorneys at Spolin Law P.C. know defenses that can work against charges of torture and related offenses.

While being charged with torture is a serious matter in California and can result in life in prison, several important defenses to this charge exist. These include:

Lack of Great Bodily Injury

To be convicted of torture, a defendant must have caused great bodily injury, which is a substantial or serious injury. If the victim suffered only minor physical injuries, the defendant is not guilty of torture.

Lack of Intent to Cause Cruel or Extreme Pain and Suffering

A defendant must have intended to cause “cruel” or “extreme” pain and suffering to be guilty of torture. If the defendant merely intended to cause injury but not cruel or extreme pain and suffering, then they cannot be convicted of torture, even if they can be convicted of some other crime.

Lack of an Improper Motive

Torture is unusual in that it focuses on the motive of the perpetrator. To be considered torture, the defendant’s motive must have been to extort or persuade, to exact revenge, or to obtain pleasure from the infliction of cruel and extreme pain and suffering.

Self Defense or Defense of Others Will Likely Fail

While self-defense or defense of others is a defense to many other crimes involving injury to another, it is not likely a viable defense to torture. For self-defense or defense of others to constitute a complete defense, the force used against an aggressor must be reasonable under the circumstances.

Use of force that involves (1) an intent to cause extreme or cruel pain and suffering and (2) a motive of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or pleasure is most likely not “reasonable” force in combatting an attack.

Mr. Spolin can evaluate the facts in your case and help you understand how these defenses might apply. Call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816.

  1. Definition and Elements of Torture
  2. Penalties for Violation of PC 206
  3. Defenses to Torture Charges
  4. Other Offenses Related to Torture
  5. Learn How a Torture Defense Attorney Can Help You

Other Offenses Related to Torture

There are other offenses related to torture. These crimes may be charged in addition to or in lieu of a PC 206 charge.

Murder by Torture – What If the Victim Dies?

If the victim of an act of torture dies from their injuries, the person who inflicted the wounds may be charged with murder by torture, a first-degree murder charge that may result in life in prison without the possibility of parole or even imposition of the death penalty.

California’s felony-murder provisions indicate that a person may be charged with first- or second-degree murder if a victim dies while the person is committing a felony. Thus, it would seem that a person who committed torture as described above would be charged with felony murder if the victim of the torture dies as a result of the injuries sustained. In fact, California law lists torture as one of the felonies that supports a first-degree murder charge.

However, to prove a charge of murder by torture, the state must show:

  1. The defendant willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation intended to inflict extreme and prolonged pain on the person killed while that person was still alive;
  2. The defendant intended to inflict such pain on the person killed for the calculated purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or any other sadistic reason;
  3. The acts causing death involved a high degree of probability of death; and
  4. The torture was a cause of death.

Murder by torture, as indicated above, requires a showing that a person willfully, deliberately and with premeditation intended to inflict extreme and prolonged pain upon another.

Premeditation is not required for a conviction for torture; neither is the intent to cause prolonged pain. Thus, murder by torture is not a usual felony-murder crime; more than simple torture must be shown to support a conviction.

Other Types of Injurious Conduct

Torture is distinguished from other crimes involving the infliction of serious injury upon another by its focus on the defendant’s intent and motive. If the state is unable to show that the defendant intended to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering or that they acted with revenge, extortion, persuasion, or pleasure as a motive for causing the injury, it may charge the defendant with other crimes. The most closely related crimes to torture are aggravated battery, mayhem, and aggravated mayhem.

Corporal Injury to an Intimate Partner

Under PC 273.5, corporal injury to an intimate partner occurs when a person physically injures a spouse or cohabitant. The injury may be either serious or minor. This crime is also often called domestic violence, domestic abuse, domestic battery, or spousal abuse.

This is a wobbler offense that may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the defendant could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. As a felony, the defendant could face two, three, or four years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000. Subsequent convictions of this offense within seven years of a prior conviction result in more serious penalties.

Aggravated Battery

Aggravated battery under PC 243(d) occurs when a person commits a battery (an unlawful and injurious or offensive touching) that results in serious bodily injury. A wobbler offense, the penalty for aggravated battery is incarceration in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment in a state prison for two, three, or four years. If the defendant causes “great bodily injury” rather than serious bodily injury, the sentence may be enhanced by three years. This penalty is substantially different than that for torture, which is life in prison. The absence of the unlawful intent and motive required for torture will significantly change the outcome for a defendant.

Mayhem

Under PC 203, mayhem is a crime that focuses not on the intent or motive of the perpetrator, but on the seriousness of the injury. If a person unlawfully and maliciously deprives another of a “member of their body, or disfigures, disables, renders it useless, or cuts or disables their tongue, puts out their eye, or slits their nose, ear, or lip,” that person is guilty of mayhem.

Mayhem is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or eight years. If the injury to a person is not “great bodily injury” but only that described by the mayhem statute, that injury will not support a charge of torture but may support a charge of mayhem. As with aggravated battery, having a torture charge reduced to mayhem is a significant benefit to the defendant.

Aggravated Mayhem

Under PC 205, aggravated mayhem results when a person, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the physical or psychological well-being of another person, intentionally causes permanent disability or disfigurement to another person or deprives him or her of a limb, organ, or member of his or her body. If a defendant intended to disable or disfigure a person but lacked the intent to cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering, that person may be convicted of aggravated mayhem rather than torture. Likewise, if a defendant disabled or disfigured another without the motive of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or self-gratification, they will not be guilty of torture but may be guilty of aggravated mayhem.

However, being convicted of aggravated mayhem rather than torture does not benefit a defendant. The punishment for aggravated mayhem is imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole.

  1. Definition and Elements of Torture
  2. Penalties for Violation of PC 206
  3. Defenses to Torture Charges
  4. Other Offenses Related to Torture
  5. Learn How a Torture Defense Attorney Can Help You

Learn How a Torture Defense Attorney Can Help You

Attorneys Don Nguyen, Aaron Spolin, and Jeremy Cutcher, and legal researcher Dan DeMaria | Spolin Law P.C.

The torture defense attorneys at Spolin Law P.C. fight for clients who have been wrongfully charged. Call them today at (310) 424-5816.

Torture under California Penal Code 206 is a violent crime that can result in life in prison. However, there are many potential defenses to these charges.

Spolin Law P.C.’s award-winning torture defense lawyers have a record of successful outcomes. We win cases because:

  • We know the law. The attorneys at Spolin Law P.C. know the elements and defenses to torture and related crimes. We will use our knowledge to fight for you in court.
  • We know the legal process. It’s important to know how and when to file legal items like motions. We understand how to gain an advantage over the prosecution by using strategic tactics throughout the legal process.
  • We know how to win. Spolin Law P.C. has a record of success. Our experienced attorneys develop effective strategies that win cases like yours. Our goal is always to protect your freedom.

If you have questions about your case, contact Mr. Spolin and the torture defense attorneys at the law firm Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816.