"Great bodily injury" (sometimes referred to as "GBI" or "great bodily harm") is a legal term that basically means what is says..."great" bodily injury. Significant or substantial injuries fall under this category.1 By contrast, insignificant or even moderate injuries do not.2
Great bodily injury refers to physical injuries...not to emotional and/or financial ones. While major traumas such as brain damage and paralysis are obvious types of great bodily injury, it is important to understand that the injury doesn't have to be permanent or this severe.3
For the most part, what constitutes GBI is determined on a case-by-case basis.4 Prosecutors, judges, and/or juries consider factors that include (but are not limited to):
- the severity of the injury,
- the resulting pain, and/or
- any required medical care.5
In order to better understand what constitutes great bodily injury, our California criminal defense lawyers will address the following:
If, after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Penal Code 242 PC Battery, California Sex Crimes, Penal Code 368 PC Elder Abuse, California Domestic Violence Laws, Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury, Penal Code 245(a)(1) Assault with a Deadly Weapon "ADW", and California's Three Strikes Law.
Causing someone great bodily harm isn't a crime in and of itself, but is what's known as a sentencing enhancement.6
This means that if prosecutors convict you of a criminal offense...and during the commission of the crime you caused another person to suffer great bodily harm...California Penal Code 12022.7 PC authorizes the judge to impose a lengthier prison sentence than he/she otherwise would have. Causing a significant injury to yourself or to an accomplice to a crime does not give rise to this additional penalty.
It is also important to understand that a great bodily injury enhancement will only stand if the sustained injury is more severe than the type of injury that would normally or typically result from the underlying offense.7
Let's look at some examples to better illustrate the point:
California Penal Code 242 PC battery
A Penal Code 242 PC "battery" takes place when you illegally use force or violence upon another person.8 If, for example, you hit another person so hard that he requires stitches, prosecutors could charge you with battery causing great bodily injury.
California Penal Code 368 PC elder abuse
Penal Code 368 PC "elder abuse" takes place when you abuse or neglect an elderly person.9 Suppose, for example, that you intentionally withhold an elder's required medication. This deprivation causes him to suffer a stroke. You could face a great bodily injury sentencing enhancement.
Similarly, if you are an employee in a nursing home and are convicted of nursing home elder abuse10 because you intentionally caused an elder patient to fall...and that fall resulted in a broken hip...you face the same increased penalty.
California domestic violence offenses
California domestic violence law, codified in statutes such as Penal Code 273.5 spousal abuse or Penal Code 273d child abuse, is frequently charged in connection with great bodily harm allegations.11 Causing your significant other or child to suffer a black eye, a broken bone, or any other injury that requires medical attention will generally trigger this sentencing enhancement.
California Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury
If you are convicted of Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury12...because of causing a car accident that led another person to suffer a great bodily injury...you could receive the additional GBI penalty. And while you won't be charged with this enhancement in conjunction with killing another in a DUI manslaughter case13, you could receive this enhancement for any surviving victims who sustained great bodily harm.
This is because "great bodily injury" isn't used as a sentencing enhancement when death is a necessary element of the offense...only when an unforeseen serious injury results from the act. When you kill someone and are charged with homicide, the penalty already takes that death into consideration.
As a result, Penal Code 187 PC murder14, manslaughter, and Penal Codes 451 and 452 PC arson and reckless burning15 are the only crimes that are exempt from great bodily injury sentencing enhancement, as each already incorporates an enhanced penalty.16
California sex crimes
Certain California sex crimes are also closely connected with great bodily harm allegations and, in fact, rely on a separate GBI statute for sentencing enhancement. Penal Code 12022.8 PC addresses great bodily injury when it results from specific sex crimes.17
If, for example, prosecutors convict you of Penal Code 261 PC "rape"18 and...during the rape, you spread a sexually transmitted disease to the victim, and/or impregnated the victim...the judge could sentence you using the GBI enhancement.19
California Penal Code 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon "ADW"
Penal Code 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon or "ADW" is a little different from the above crimes. This is because great bodily injury is built into this offense, which is what separates an ADW from a simple assault.20
If you assault another person with means of force that are likely to produce a great bodily injury, prosecutors could charge you with ADW. It isn't necessary that you actually caused the other person to suffer great bodily harm, only that the assault was likely to produce that result.
However, if you actually inflict great bodily injury during an ADW, prosecutors could charge you with assault with a deadly weapon and the great bodily harm enhanced penalty.
As previously stated, what constitutes great bodily harm is determined on a case-by-case basis. This means that even though an injury qualifies as GBI in one case, the same injury caused under different circumstances...or evaluated by a different jury...may not.
That said, here are just a few examples of injuries where the court imposed a great bodily injury enhancement.
- A dog bite (if you command your dog to bite another)21,
- broken bones22 (specifically including...but not limited to...jaw fractures,23 a broken nose,24 and a broken hand25),
- a black, swollen eye where bruises were still visible after four months26,
- blistering and second degree burns that were sustained after the defendant threw hot grease in the victim's face27,
- contusions, swelling, and severe discoloration visible the day after the victim was beaten by a wooden stick28,
- bloody knees, abrasions, a painful neck, and vaginal soreness resulting from a rape29,
- strangulation to the point of almost passing out30, and
- gunshot wounds31.
It bears repeating that just because the courts found that these injuries warranted a great bodily harm enhancement doesn't mean that they will in every case.32
Once the California Supreme Court eliminated the previously imposed requirement that great bodily injury had to include "prolonged and protracted harm"33, GBI allegations became much easier to prove.
That said, great bodily harm is still only supposed to apply to serious or significant injuries. Trivial injuries will not invite this enhancement.
The following are a few examples of injuries that did not support a GBI enhancement. And...just like the reasoning above...these same injuries could still someday justify the enhancement under different circumstances.
- Pregnancy (when the crime was Penal Code 261.5 statutory rape34 and the defendant didn't intend to impregnate the victim35),
- a minor laceration on the victim's back caused by the defendant stabbing him through the victim's jacket, sweater, and shirt36, and
- injuries that a defendant directs, encourages, or facilitates, but does not personally inflict37.
In 1976, when California's great bodily injury statute Penal Code 12022.7 PC was originally written, it specified the types of GBI that the California Legislature had in mind:
- prolonged loss of consciousness,
- severe concussion,
- protracted loss of any bodily member or organ,
- protracted impairment of function of any bodily member or organ or bone,
- a wound or wounds requiring extensive suturing,
- serious disfigurement, and
- severe physical pain inflicted by torture.38
However, before the law was enacted in 1977, the Legislature removed this language. It also amended the definition of great bodily injury from a "serious impairment of physical condition" to "a substantial or significant injury", which is how the code currently reads.39
Some of the above conditions made their way into the definition used for serious bodily injury, which is a lesser standard than GBI. In reality, the two terms are used interchangeably. However, construing them literally, a "serious bodily injury" means an impairment to a physical condition. Examples include (but are not limited to):
- a concussion,
- a loss of consciousness, and
Serious bodily injury only potentially elevates a simple battery to a possible aggravated battery, subjecting you to a maximum four-year prison sentence.41
Great bodily injury not only counts as a strike on your record under California's Three Strikes Law42, but also subjects an offender to an additional three to six years in the California State Prison.43
This three to six year enhancement for GBI is in addition and consecutive to the sentence you receive for the underlying offense. Whether you receive an additional three, four, five, or six years depends on
- the age of the injured victim (if you injure a senior over 70 or a child under 5, the judge will punish you more severely),
- the severity of the injury, and
- the circumstances of the offense (domestic violence and sex offenses typically invite a greater penalty).44
The problem is that overzealous prosecutors often allege great bodily injury when there is truly only a moderate injury...or sometimes even just a red-mark or bruise.
As Los Angeles criminal defense attorney John Murray explains45, "Great bodily injury is no joke. If found guilty of this sentencing enhancement, you face a substantial prison sentence. It's my job to hold prosecutors accountable and to make sure that these allegations aren't alleged when the facts don't warrant it."
Call us for help.
If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 12022.7 causing great bodily injury and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
For the definition of substantial bodily harm in Nevada, go to our page on substantial bodily harm in Nevada.
1California Penal Code 12022.7 PC -- Terms of imprisonment for persons inflicting great bodily injury while committing or attempting felony. ("(f) As used in this section "great bodily injury" means a significant or substantial physical injury.")
2California Jury Instructions - Criminal. CALJIC 17.20 -- Infliction of great bodily injury. ("Great bodily injury," as used in this instruction, means a significant or substantial physical injury. Minor, trivial or moderate injuries do not constitute great bodily injury.")
3People v. Escobar (1992) 3 Cal.4th 740, 750. ([With respect to California's definition of great bodily injury]... "Clearly, the latter standard contains no specific requirement that the victim suffer "permanent," "prolonged" or "protracted" disfigurement, impairment, or loss of bodily function.")
4See same. ("It is well settled that the determination of great bodily injury is essentially a question of fact, not of law. " 'Whether the harm resulting to the victim ... constitutes great bodily injury is a question of fact for the jury.")
5People v. Cross (2008) 45 Cal.4th 58, 66. ("Proof that a victim's bodily injury is "great"-that is, significant or substantial within the meaning of [California Penal Code] section 12022.7-is commonly established by evidence of the severity of the victim's physical injury, the resulting pain, or the medical care required to treat or repair the injury.")
6California Penal Code 12022.7 PC -- Great bodily injury. ("(a) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years. (b) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony which causes the victim to become comatose due to brain injury or to suffer paralysis of a permanent nature, shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. As used in this subdivision, "paralysis" means a major or complete loss of motor function resulting from injury to the nervous system or to a muscular mechanism. (c) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a person who is 70 years of age or older, other than an accomplice, in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. (d) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a child under the age of five years in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for four, five, or six years. (e) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three, four, or five years. As used in this subdivision, "domestic violence" has the meaning provided in subdivision (b) of [California Penal Code] Section 13700. (f) As used in this section, "great bodily injury" means a significant or substantial physical injury. (g) This section shall not apply to murder or manslaughter or a violation of [Penal Code] Section 451 or 452. Subdivisions (a), (b), (c), and (d) shall not apply if infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense. (h) The court shall impose the additional terms of imprisonment under either subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d), but may not impose more than one of those terms for the same offense.")
7See Escobar, endnote 3, above at 746. ("That the Legislature had intended a substantial injury beyond that inherent in the offense itself was fairly apparent, and several Court of Appeal decisions, notably People v. Richardson, supra, 23 Cal.App.3d 403, and People v. Wells (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 348 [92 Cal.Rptr. 191], had so held.")
8California Penal Code 242 PC -- Battery. ("A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.")
9California Penal Code 368 -- Elder abuse. ("(b)(1) Any person who knows or reasonably should know that a person is an elder or dependent adult and who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not to exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.")
10Nursing home elder abuse is Penal Code 368 elder abuse that takes place in a nursing home. Both facility operators and staff can be charged with this offense.
11California Penal Code 273.5 PC -- Spousal abuse. ("(a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000) or by both that fine and imprisonment.")
See also Penal Code 273d -- Child abuse. ("(a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.")
12California Vehicle Code 23153 -- DUI causing injury. ("(a) It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver [note that the code says bodily injury, not great bodily injury - great bodily injury isn't necessarily included in the offense, which is why Penal Code 12022.7 PC "great bodily injury" is applicable to this section]. (b) It is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.")
13California Penal Code 191.5 -- Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. ("(a) Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence. (b) Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.")
14California Penal Code 187 -- Murder. ("(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.
15California Penal Code 451 PC -- Arson. ("A person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.")
See also California Penal Code 452 PC -- Reckless burning. ("A person is guilty of unlawfully causing a fire when he recklessly sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, any structure, forest land or property.
16People v. Cross (2008) 45 Cal.4th 58, 66. (""A plain reading of Penal Code section 12022.7 indicates the Legislature intended it to be applied broadly" ( People v. Sainz (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 565, 574, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 203), and therefore the statute itself sets out the only criminal offenses-murder, manslaughter, arson, and unlawfully causing a fire, each of which incorporates enhanced sentencing for such injury-that are not subject to a finding of great bodily injury (� 12022.7, subd. (g)).")
17California Penal Code 12022.8 PC -- Infliction of great bodily injury during commission of certain sex offenses. ("Any person who inflicts great bodily injury, as defined in [California Penal Code] Section 12022.7 PC, on any victim in a violation of Section 220 involving a specified sexual offense, or a violation or attempted violation of paragraph (2), (3), or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 261, paragraph (1) or (4) of subdivision (a) of [Penal Code] Section 262, Section 264.1, subdivision (b) of Section 288, subdivision (a) of Section 289, or sodomy or oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person as provided in Section 286 or 288a shall receive a five-year enhancement for each violation in addition to the sentence provided for the felony conviction.")
18California Penal Code 261 PC -- Rape. Rape is defined as nonconsensual sexual intercourse with another person.
19People v. Johnson (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1137, 1140. ("The court in People v. Sargent (1978) 86 Cal.App.3d 148 [150 Cal.Rptr. 113], a case decided after Caudillo, held that pregnancy resulting from rape is a great bodily injury. Its reasoning was that the pregnancy was not necessarily incident to an act of rape. The injury it caused went beyond the normal psychological and emotional distress necessarily associated with rape and the major physical change it brought on in the victim constituted "a significant bodily impairment primarily affecting a woman's health and well being." (At p. 151.) Also significant in the holding was the reviewing court's lack of concern over the fact that the great bodily injury alleged was the natural result of an act of intercourse. In People v. Williams (1981) 115 Cal.App.3d 446, 454 [171 Cal.Rptr. 401], the court upheld a finding of great bodily injury where the victim "sustained a torn hymen as a result of which blood accumulated in the vagina." In reaching its decision the court commented, "The situation here is not unlike the physical injury associated with pregnancy and venereal disease which result from a rape [citations]." ( Id., at p. 455, italics added.) It is therefore clear that although the spreading of a virus is a risk inherent in an act of sexual intercourse, the physical symptoms resulting from such infection may form the basis of a great bodily injury enhancement pursuant to section 12022.8.")
20California Penal Code 245(a)(1) -- Assault with a deadly weapon "ADW". ("(a)(1) Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.")
21People v. Frazier (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 613, 618. ("Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, as we must ( People v. Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d 557, 578, 162 Cal.Rptr. 431, 606 P.2d 738), we conclude that sufficient evidence supports the finding that Papas attacked and mauled Doll by obeying defendant's commands. Defendant knew that the dogs would attack on command, having been present during an earlier incident when Angelica had instructed the dogs to attack a man. The dogs also obeyed defendant, who took care of them and spent much time with them. Defendant commanded the dogs to attack Doll. When a neighbor told defendant to stop the attack on Doll, defendant refused to call off the dogs. Even defendant concedes that "there is no evidence that Papas was acting instinctively when he bit [Doll]." The evidence amply demonstrates that defendant directed the attack and hindered its ending so that she is responsible for personally inflicting great bodily injury.")
22People v. Johnson (1980) 104 Cal.App.3d 598, 609. ("It is common knowledge that a bone fracture is not merely a transitory bodily distress, but a severe and protracted injury which causes significant pain and requires considerable time to heal.")
23See same. ("We believe the jaw fracture sustained by Ms. Moseman fairly qualifies as significant and substantial physical injury within the definition of Caudillo.")
24People v. Villarreal (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 1136, 1141. ("Thus, since "great bodily injury" and "serious bodily injury" are essentially equivalent terms, and since section 243 of the Penal Code similarly states that a "bone fracture" constitutes "serious bodily injury," there is no doubt that the jury was properly instructed. As a matter of law a bone fracture under the circumstances herein [that is, a broken nose], constitutes a "significant or substantial injury" within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.7.
25People v. Kent (1979) 96 Cal.App.3d 130, 136. ("The evidence, as noted, established that for failure to earn enough money Kent had hit and broken Betty's right hand causing it to swell to twice its normal size. The "great bodily injury" which the jury found had been inflicted upon Betty is defined as "a significant or substantial physical injury." (Pen. Code, s 12022.7.) The jury reasonably found that the injury to Betty's right hand was such an injury.")
26People v. Muniz (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 1508, 1520. ("Here, applying the standards of appellate review to a claim of insufficiency of the evidence,FN7 we conclude there is substantial evidence to support the jury's determination of great bodily injury. Sherri sustained severe injuries to her eye. It was "completely black, blue, purple, completely swollen shut" and "three to four times the size of a normal eye." The swelling protruded past the point of the nose. She went to an ophthalmologist a day or two after the assault, but the doctor could not examine the retina because the eye was closed shut. She had to return a few weeks later for a follow up examination. Sherri's bruises had not completely healed at the time of the trial-four months after the assault. Sherri testified she lost consciousness and she described the force of Muniz's blows as so severe that it "felt like splinters going through my skull. And I saw like white lights in front of my eyes."")
27People v. Harvey (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 823, 827. ("Here, although the injuries apparently were not permanent, they were protracted and far from transitory. The victim suffered blistering second degree burns. (See People v. Sanchez (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 718, 733, 182 Cal.Rptr. 671 [multiple abrasions, numerous bruises, and swelling].) There was visible discoloration and disfigurement for a month at least. (See People v. Jaramillo, supra, 98 Cal.App.3d at 836, 159 Cal.Rptr. 771 [contusions, swelling, and severe discoloration visible the day after infliction]; People v. Muniz, supra, 213 Cal.App.3d at 1520, 262 Cal.Rptr. 743 [bruises lasted four months].) The injuries required repeated medical treatments for at least a month. (See People v. Johnson, supra, 104 Cal.App.3d at 609, 164 Cal.Rptr. 69 [bone fracture requires considerable time to heal].) The evidence amply supports the implied finding of significant or substantial injury.")
28People v. Jaramillo (1979) 98 Cal.App.3d 830, 836. ("In our present case the testimony and exhibits display that Sheri suffered multiple contusions over various portions of her body and the injuries caused swelling and left severe discoloration on parts of her body. The injuries were visible the day after infliction to at least two lay persons at Sheri's elementary school. Further, there was evidence that Sheri suffered pain as a result of her injuries because a day later she had a "look of anguish" on her face and she flinched or turned away from a simple guiding touch on the shoulder by the community aid and Sheri informed her that "it hurt" as they walked to the nurse's office. A fine line can divide an injury from being significant or substantial from an injury that does not quite meet the description. Clearly it is the trier of fact that must in most situations make the determination. Here, while the issue might be close it appears that there were sufficient facts upon which the court could base its finding of great bodily injury and such a finding therefore will not be disturbed on appeal.")
29People v. Escobar (1992) 3 Cal.4th 740, 750. ("Indeed, nothing in the statutory definition precludes a jury from finding great bodily injury based on precisely the quantum of evidence presented here: extensive bruises and abrasions over the victim's legs, knees and elbows, injury to her neck and soreness in her vaginal area of such severity that it significantly impaired her ability to walk. As the Court of Appeal correctly concluded, these are not the type of injuries "routinely associated with rape," but reflect a degree of brutality and violence substantially beyond that necessarily present in the offense.") It is important to note that this case disapproved People v. Caudillo (1978) 21 Cal.3d 562 in holding that: (1) finding of permanent, prolonged, or protracted disfigurement, impairment, or loss of bodily functions was not necessary for defendant to be subject to enhancement for inflicting "great bodily injury," but (2) evidence supported finding that defendant inflicted "great bodily injury" even under that erroneous standard.
30People v. Mixon (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 1471, 1489. ("The question then is, does the following constitute substantial evidence of more than "transitory and short lived bodily distress": the defendant strangled the victim with her scarf tight enough to nearly cause her to pass out; she felt herself choking; her left eye started swelling and her nose started bleeding; she couldn't breathe; she felt pain around her neck and saw blood; blood was all over her face; when she was forced from her house she was still suffering from the head injuries she received in the closet; when she lay on her stomach in the van she felt a strong blow on her head; it produced a big lump on the back of her neck; she momentarily lost consciousness; she then went into "very excruciating pain"; the wound bled; when she then crawled to the front seat she was in "really bad pain"; as defendant drove fast and erratically she wasn't looking because she was in a lot of pain and kept her eyes closed; she bled a lot in the van; when defendant later stopped the van she was in so much pain that she wasn't looking around; when defendant opened the passenger door she fell to the concrete or asphalt-like ground; she was in pain when she fell to the ground; defendant grabbed her by one arm and dragged her away from the van; she sustained a dark purple line across her neck from the strangulation; her eyes were all red and her face was very bruised. Our answer is yes.")
31People v. Mendias (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 195, 205. ("The instant victim's injury [a gunshot wound to the upper thigh] was more significant and substantial than in Escobar. It is similar to the gunshot wounds in People v. Lopez (1986) 176 Cal.App.3d 460, 222 Cal.Rptr. 83 and People v. Wolcott (1983) 34 Cal.3d 92, 192 Cal.Rptr. 748, 665 P.2d 520 where great bodily injury findings were upheld. In Lopez one victim was shot in the right buttock and a second victim in the left thigh. There was no evidence either victim sought or received medical attention. In Wolcott the victim was shot in the calf, the bullet fragmenting. The treating doctor removed one fragment but left the others to "work themselves out." The victim lost little blood, no sutures were required, and the victim went to work the next day. We conclude substantial evidence supports the jury finding of great bodily injury.")
32While juries have considered all of these listed injuries as great bodily injuries, People v. Nava (1989), 207 Cal.App.3d 1490 points out the fact that every case must be independently evaluated, as there is no generic category of what qualifies as GBI without a determination of the quality of that injury.
33See Escobar at 749, endnote 29 above. ("As explained above, however, Caudillo erred in concluding that the Legislature intended no change in the definition of "great bodily injury" when it discarded the specific criteria set forth in the original version of [California Penal Code] section 12022.7 and substituted the more general "significant or substantial physical injury" test then in use. Clearly, the latter standard contains no specific requirement that the victim suffer "permanent," "prolonged" or "protracted" disfigurement, impairment, or loss of bodily function. Indeed, nothing in the statutory definition precludes a jury from finding great bodily injury based on precisely the quantum of evidence presented here: extensive bruises and abrasions over the victim's legs, knees and elbows, injury to her neck and soreness in her vaginal area of such severity that it significantly impaired her ability to walk. As the Court of Appeal correctly concluded, these are not the type of injuries "routinely associated with rape," but reflect a degree of brutality and violence substantially beyond that necessarily present in the offense.")
34Penal Code 261.5 PC -- Statutory rape. ("(a) Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor. For the purposes of this section, a "minor" is a person under the age of 18 years and an "adult" is a person who is at least 18 years of age.")
35People v. Superior Court (Duval) (1988) 198 Cal.App.3d 1121, 1134. ("On this record, the most that can be said is that defendant negligently, even recklessly, ignored the possibility that his conduct might lead to pregnancy. However, although both negligence and recklessness are themselves culpable states, neither equates with specific intent. Accordingly, we conclude the trial court did not err in dismissing the great bodily injury enhancement allegation.")
36People v. Martinez (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 727, 735. ("Jaime Saldana did not testify at trial. His companion Mendez testified that Martinez "picked or cut Jaime in his back a little bit. Because he was wearing a jacket, a sweater and a shirt, so he was okay. When they threw him on the floor, that's when he cut him, ...." Mendez later characterized the wound "a little stab." A police officer examined Saldana and observed "a minor laceration-type injury in the middle of his back." Saldana wore "a couple of shirts, two shirts, and a very heavy coat." Saldana was not taken to the hospital, as were the other victims. Although on appeal all evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the judgment, it must still be substantial and inspire confidence. ( People v. Redmond (1969) 71 Cal.2d 745, 79 Cal.Rptr. 529, 457 P.2d 321.) The injury required under [California Penal Code] section 12022.7 must be significant or substantial. ( People v. Richardson (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 403, 100 Cal.Rptr. 251; People v. Wolcott (1983) 34 Cal.3d 92, 192 Cal.Rptr. 748, 665 P.2d 520.) We find insufficient evidence to support a finding Saldana suffered great bodily injury.")
37People v. Cole (1982) 31 Cal.3d 568, 570. ("Penal Code section 12022.7 FN1 provides that "Any person who, with the intent to inflict such injury, pe rsonally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission or attempted commission of a felony shall, in addition and ∗571 consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which he has been convicted, be punished by an additional term of three years, unless infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense of which he is convicted...." (Emphasis added.) The issue in the present appeal is whether appellant, who blocked the victim's escape and directed the attack but did not physically strike the victim, may receive an enhanced sentence pursuant to this section. We have concluded that the Legislature intended to impose an additional penalty for causing great bodily injury only on those principals who perform the act that directly inflicts the injury, and that one who merely aids, abets, or directs another to inflict the physical injury is not subject to the enhanced penalty of [California Penal Code] section 12022.7.")
38See Escobar at 747, endnote 29, above. ("The analysis began by noting, correctly, that the original version of section 12022.7 "spelled out in some detail" the level of injury necessary to trigger the three-year enhancement: " 'As used in this section, "great bodily injury" means a serious impairment of physical condition, which includes any of the following: [¶] (a) Prolonged loss of consciousness. [¶] (b) Severe concussion. [¶] (c) Protracted loss of any bodily member or organ. [¶] (d) Protracted impairment of function of any bodily member or organ or bone. [¶] (e) A wound or wounds requiring extensive suturing. [¶] (f) Serious disfigurement. [¶] (g) Severe physical pain inflicted by torture.' " ( People v. Caudillo, supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 581; Stats. 1976, ch. 1139, � 306, pp. 5162-5163.)")
39See same. ("This version of the statute, however, never became law. The effective date of the Determinate Sentencing Act was July 1, 1977. Prior to that date, urgency legislation was introduced to make changes in the act. Among these changes were a number of significant alterations to the definition of great bodily injury in [California Penal Code] section 12022.7. On April 12, 1977, the amending legislation was itself amended in the Assembly by deleting the detailed enumeration of injuries which defined great bodily injury. (Assem. Amend. to Assem. Bill No. 476 (1977-1978 Reg. Sess.) Apr. 12, 1977.) One week later, the bill was further amended in the Assembly by changing the remaining definition of "great bodily injury" from a "serious impairment of physical condition" to "a significant or substantial physical injury." (Assem. Amend. to Assem. Bill No. 476 (1977-1978 Reg. Sess.) Apr. 19, 1977.) This was the version ultimately enacted into law. (Stats. 1977, ch. 165, � 94, p. 679.)")
40Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 925 -- Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury (Pen. Code, sections 242 and 243(d) PC). ("[A serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition. Such an injury may include [, but is not limited to]: (loss of consciousness/ concussion/ bone fracture/ protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ/ a wound requiring extensive suturing/ [and] serious disfigurement).]")
41California Penal Code 243 -- Battery, punishment. ("(d) When a battery is committed against any person and serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.")
42California Penal Code 667.5 -- Prior prison terms; enhancement of prison terms for new offenses. ("(c) For the purpose of this section, "violent felony" shall mean any of the following: (8) Any felony in which the defendant inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice...")
See also California Penal Code 667 -- Habitual criminals; enhancement of sentence; amendment of section (otherwise known as California's Three Strikes Law). ("(b) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, to ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.")
43California Penal Code 12022.7 -- Great bodily injury, endnote 6, above.
44See same. See also California Penal Code 12022.8 PC, endnote 17, above.
45Los Angeles criminal defense attorney John Murray represents clients accused of California crimes in Los Angeles (including Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier), the South Bay, and Orange County (including Newport Beach and Santa Ana).