What is Great Bodily Harm in California?



One of the charges that are quite serious but is seldom mentioned is great bodily harm. This is a charge that will usually be paired with an assault charge.

Great bodily harm in California is a sentence enhancement charge. It is attached to other charges to give the judge the option of extending the maximum sentence of the other charges. The way this works is that the judge sets a maximum sentence for the first conviction and then adds additional time for the great bodily harm charge. These two sentences cannot be carried out consecutively. The time the defendant must serve for the great bodily harm charge will not start until the sentence for the other charge has been completed.

Great bodily harm in California is outlined in California Penal Code 12022.7 PC.

For a great bodily harm charge to be added as a sentence enhancement, the victim must have sustained substantial injuries. These must be far more serious than a few scrapes and bruises. The types of injuries that can lead to a great bodily harm charge include:

  • Broken bones
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Severe burns
  • Internal injuries

The bulk of the cases that are enhanced by a great bodily harm charge in California involve assault and domestic abuse, however, it’s not uncommon to see it linked to other charges which can include:

  • DUI’s
  • Elder abuse
  • Sex crimes
  • Severe aggravated dog bite cases

It isn’t easy to figure out exactly how much time a great bodily harm conviction will add to a sentence. The general rule of thumb is that the judge can use great bodily harm to attach an additional 3-6 years to a prison sentence. However, if the victim was over 70 years old, a five-year sentence enhancement can be added. If the victim suffered paralysis or a life-altering brain injury, the judge can add five years to the sentence. If multiple people suffered injuries even more time could be added to the original sentence.