The domestic violence offense of 'corporal injury on a spouse' is listed under California Penal Code 273.5. According to Penal Code 273.5, the crime of corporal injury on a spouse is described as the act of willful infliction of physical injury on an intimate partner or a spouse. This offense is commonly referred to as 'domestic abuse.'
The offense of corporal injury on a spouse is quite similar to the crime of domestic battery, which is listed under California Penal Code 243(e). The only striking difference that distinguishes these two offenses is the magnitude and extent of physical harm and injuries the victim suffers.
The phrase ‘corporal injury’ refers to certain types of physical injuries that can result in trauma, such as wounds, severe bruises, internal injuries, or broken bones. For you to be convicted of the offense of corporal injury on a spouse, the prosecution must show that you inflicted actual bodily harm through exerting physical force.
You can reach out to us at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney if you have been charged with the offense of corporal injury on a spouse. Over the years, our experienced team of criminal defense attorneys has assisted numerous defendants in becoming acquitted or having their charges dropped or reduced. Contact us to learn more about our services.
The Legal Definition of ‘Corporal Injury on a Spouse’
The primary law that gives the legal definition of the offense of ‘corporal injury on a spouse’ is California Penal Code 273.5. According to PC 273.5, the California Department of Prosecution can charge an individual with the offense of corporal injury on a spouse if the individual willfully inflicts any physical injuries on his/her former or current spouse or intimate partner, and the inflicted bodily injury causes a traumatic condition. Here is a detailed analysis of what PC 273.5 means:
The court will hold a defendant to have acted 'willfully' if he or she did any action intentionally. The prosecution needs not to prove that the defendant had the intention of breaking the law.
The term ‘traumatic condition’ refers to any bodily injury or wound that is a result of the direct exertion of physical force. It doesn’t have to be severe – just a minor injury or wound will be sufficient evidence for the court to convict you of the criminal offense of corporal injury on a spouse.
Below, we list for you the most common injuries that Los Angeles criminal courts typically consider to be traumatic:
- Broken bones
- Injuries caused by strangulation or suffocation
- Internal bleeding
The prosecutor must demonstrate a link between the victim’s traumatic conditions and the actions of the defendant. He/she must illustrate that it is a result of the defendant’s willful infliction of physical harm that the victim suffered a traumatic condition. For the prosecutor to prove causation, he/she must satisfy the following requirements:
- The traumatic condition is a probable and natural result of the victim’s physical injury
- The victim's bodily injury is a substantial and direct cause of the traumatic condition
- The traumatic condition could not have occurred if the physical injury was not in existence
According to California Penal Code 273.5, the defendant must have inflicted physical force on an intimate partner. The term 'intimate partner' refers to a person's former or current:
- Domestic partner
- Any person with whom you are in a ‘serious relationship’
- Parent (whether biological or adoptive) of the child of the defendant
Criminal courts use various factors to determine if two individuals were living together and should be considered as ‘intimate partners.’ Some of these factors include:
- Sexual activities between them while they were sharing a residential space
- How long the relationship was
- Sharing of expenses or income
- Whether the relationship was continuous
- Ownership/ joint use of property
- The conduct of the individuals
According to California’s domestic violence laws, a person can cohabit with two or more individuals simultaneously.
The Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse
In California, the offense of corporal injury on a spouse is categorized as a ‘wobbler.’ This means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on his/her discretion, and as per the facts and circumstances of the case and the criminal history of the defendant. You will most likely be charged with felony corporal injury on a spouse if the victim sustained severe injuries, and you have had a history of constant domestic violence complaints and other aggressive activities.
A conviction of misdemeanor corporal injury on a spouse may result in a county jail term of a maximum of one year, and a fine that does not exceed $6,000. Alternatively, you may be ordered to serve a summary probation sentence instead of jail time.
The basic criminal penalties for felony PC 273.5 include a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years, and a fine whose maximum value is $6,000. In some instances, you may be sentenced to formal probation in lieu of a state prison term.
Felony Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse with Past Convictions
You can still be charged with misdemeanor corporal injury on a spouse if you have prior domestic violence convictions on your record. However, if you are charged with felony corporal injury with previous convictions of assault and offenses involving domestic violence within the past seven years, you are bound to face more grievous penalties upon conviction. Here are some of the prior crimes that can aggravate the punishments for felony corporal injury on a spouse:
- PC 273.5, Corporal injury on a spouse
- PC 243(e), Battery on a spouse
- PC 243(d), Assault or battery causing severe physical injury
- PC 243.4, Sexual battery
- PC 244, Assault or battery with a caustic chemical
- PC 245, Assault with a deadly weapon
- PC 244.5, Assault with a stun gun
If you were previously convicted of battery on a spouse, your felony penalties might be increased to a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years, or a fine whose maximum value is $10,000, or both. Any other prior conviction of the offenses criminal offenses listed above (apart from battery on a spouse) may result in a state prison sentence of two, four, or five years, or a monetary fine of a maximum of $10,000, or both.
Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse with ‘Great Bodily Injury’
According to PC 12022.7, you will receive a sentencing enhancement if you seriously injure your intimate partner or spouse. Penal Code 12022.7 is California’s sentencing enhancement law for corporal injury on a spouse with ‘great bodily injury.’ The term ‘great bodily injury’ can be described to be any ‘substantial or significant bodily injury.’ A Penal Code 12022.7 sentencing enhancement will result in a consecutive, additional state prison sentence term of three, four, or five years.
Probation for PC 273.5
Sometimes, Los Angeles judges may sentence you to serve a probation term instead of jail time. There are two types of probation legally recognized in California’s criminal laws: misdemeanor (summary probation) and felony (formal) probation.
Typically, the timeframe for summary probation is 1 – 3 years, while that for formal probation is 3 – 5 years. Felony probation lasts for a more extended period than misdemeanor probation, and part of it may include jail time of a maximum of one year. Also, felony probation is usually granted in situations where the defendant has been convicted of a first-time offense or where there are crucial mitigating factors.
Convicts of corporal injury on a spouse who have been ordered to complete probation instead of jail time should abide by certain conditions that the judge usually imposes. Some of these conditions include:
- Payment of fines
- Restitution of the victim and compensation for medical and counseling expenses, among other justifiable costs
- Payment of a maximum fine of $5,000 as a donation to a battered women’s shelter
- Completion of a one-year-long domestic violence educational program
- Completion of roadside work or community service
- Not to engage in other criminal or illegal acts
- Mandatory compliance with a protective or restraining order
- Serving a 15-day county jail sentence if you have one prior conviction of domestic violence or assault, or a 60-day jail term if you have two or more of such past convictions
If you violate any of these conditions, your probation officer will report you to court. Then, a violation of probation conditions hearing will be scheduled, whose primary purpose is to evaluate whether you indeed failed to comply with the conditions.
If it is found out that the allegations of non-compliance are true, the judge may impose newer or harsher conditions. Also, he/she may revoke the probation sentence and send you to state prison or jail where you may serve the maximum term. However, in certain situations, the judge may opt to continue with the probation as it was before, without imposing new conditions.
Immigration Penalties of Corporal Injury on a Spouse
Foreign nationals who have been convicted of the criminal offense of ‘corporal injury on a spouse’ risk facing various immigration consequences. According to Federal immigration laws, corporal injury on a spouse is deemed to be a ‘deportable offense.’
In certain situations, corporal injury on a spouse may qualify as an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. An offense that is categorized as a crime involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony is deemed to be inadmissible. The penalties for inadmissible offenses include not being permitted to re-enter the United States, no chance of being eligible for US citizenship, and loss of legal right to make an application for an adjustment of status or a green card.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse as a ‘Strike’ Offense
If an individual commits the offense of corporal injury and his/her victim suffers great bodily injury, the prosecution will classify his/her charge as a serious felony. Additionally, upon conviction, he/she will receive a strike on his/her record pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law.
You will receive a second strike on your record if you are charged with a subsequent felony after you have been convicted of the offense of corporal injury on a spouse. Second-strikers, risk facing a lengthy jail term that is double the required jail term. Furthermore, they may be ordered to serve a 25-year state prison sentence to life imprisonment upon a subsequent conviction of a felony.
Legal Defenses to Corporal Injury on a Spouse
Experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers utilize various strategies to obtain a dismissal, an acquittal, or a reduction of your domestic violence charges. Some of the most commonly used legal defenses to corporal injury on a spouse include self-defense, false accusations, and lack of willfulness. Here is a detailed discussion of these defenses:
Defense of Self/Defense of Others
This defense will apply if the defendant had a reasonable belief that he/she or another person was facing imminent danger, and it was necessary for him/her to utilize physical force for protection. Moreover, the defense attorney must demonstrate to the court that the defendant exerted a reasonable force that was just sufficient to protect himself/herself or another person from danger. If you successfully prove all these facts, the court will not convict you of corporal injury.
Lack of Willfulness
As per California Penal Code 273.5, the prosecution must show the court that you willfully exerted physical force on the victim. If there is no willfulness, then there is no conviction.
If your spouse sustained the injuries accidentally, for instance, in an argument, the court would not convict you of the offense of corporal injury. Instead, the prosecution may dismiss your charge, or reduce it to a minor charge like domestic battery.
The Law Enforcement Department of California takes complaints of domestic violence very seriously. Due to this, police officers may arrest you for the offense of corporal injury on a spouse just because of a false allegation.
False accusations are usually a product of jealousy, anger, or revenge. If you have been charged with the offense of corporal injury and you believe that the ‘alleged’ victim has accused you falsely, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such an attorney will help you fight the false accusations. For instance, he/she may subpoena the social media handles, emails, and text messages of the accuser. Your attorney may also interview the accuser’s family, online contacts, coworkers, and friends, and compel the accuser and his/her ‘alleged’ witnesses to go through a comprehensive background check.
Often, a thorough investigation will reveal the hidden motive of the accuser. Your attorney will illustrate this motive to the prosecution, and your charges may be dismissed or reduced.
What will happen when the Accuser Refuses to Cooperate?
In most cases involving domestic violence, the accuser may refuse to testify, or rather, he/she may recant the allegations. Unfortunately, this may not result in a dismissal of your charges. Below, we will analyze for you the most common situations we normally encounter and their impact on your PC 273.5 charges:
The Accuser has Decided that He/she would like to ‘Drop the Charges’
Sometimes, the victim may request the prosecution to ‘drop the charges.’ Often, most prosecutors refuse this request since they believe that the accuser would only like to drop the charges because of the defendant’s undue influence, threats, coercion, or emotional manipulation.
This means that the prosecution will continue to press charges against the defendant. However, it will be extremely difficult for the prosecutor to win the case, since he/she will not have the victim’s support. In the long run, the prosecutor may enter into a plea bargaining agreement with your defense attorney, or the court may dismiss the entire case altogether because of insufficient evidence.
The Accuser has Refused to Testify
Sometimes, the alleged victim may refuse to stand up against the accused person during trial. In such a situation, the prosecutor may use his/her ‘subpoena power’ to compel the alleged victim to testify.
The prosecution will serve the accuser a subpoena for a court appearance. The judge may issue an arrest warrant against the accuser if he/she still refuses to testify.
The Accuser Can’t Appear in Court
In some situations, the prosecution may find it challenging to make the accuser appear in court. For example, the alleged victim may have fled the court’s jurisdiction or gone into hiding. This will make it hard for the prosecution to continue pursuing the case.
According to California’s evidence laws, hearsay evidence is inadmissible. This implies that in the event an accuser can’t appear in court, the prosecution cannot rely on other individuals who overheard from the accuser about domestic violence as evidence. Likewise, the jury will exclude the accuser's out-of-court statements, thus leaving the prosecution with insufficient evidence. As a result, the prosecutor's case will fall apart, and you will receive a dismissal.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse and Related Offenses
Several domestic violence crimes in California are related to the offense of corporal injury on a spouse. Often, the prosecution may charge these related offenses instead of, or alongside, corporal injury. Some of these offenses include:
1. Domestic Battery, PC 243(e)(1)
Penal Code 243(e)(1) is California’s major ‘domestic battery’ law. According to PC 243(e)(1), it is unlawful for an individual to touch his/her intimate partner in an offensive or harmful manner. This offense has less grievous penalties when compared to corporal injury on a spouse. Also, unlike corporal injury, it isn’t a requirement for the victim to have sustained physical injuries.
While the offense of corporal injury on a spouse is a wobbler and it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, prosecutors usually charge domestic battery as a misdemeanor. Its potential penalties include a maximum of a one-year county jail term and a fine that does not exceed $2,000. Sometimes, the convict may be sentenced to probation instead of jail time, and he/she may be ordered to fulfill various conditions, such as completing a batterer’s education program.
Your criminal defense attorney may enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the prosecution to reduce your corporal injury charges to PC 243(e)(1). This is especially in situations where the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to show that the victim sustained physical injuries from the physical force the defendant exerted.
2. Disturbing the Peace, PC 415
According to California Penal Code 415, a person can be charged with the offense of disturbing the peace if he/she fought someone else in public, made unreasonable noise that disturbed others, or directed provocative insults to someone else in a public area. Often, most prosecutors may agree to reduce several charges of domestic violence to disturbing the peace during plea bargaining.
This will be a favorable outcome since PC 415 does not carry with it the stigma, immigration consequences, or harsh penalties of several domestic violence convictions. Moreover, disturbing the peace is generally considered as a (non-criminal) infraction or low-level misdemeanor. If you are convicted under PC 415, you risk facing a 90-day jail term, or the court may order you to pay a fine of a maximum of $400.
3. Elder Abuse, PC 368
Penal Code 368 states that it is a criminal offense to negligently or willfully impose mentally suffering or unnecessary physical pain on an individual who is or over 65 years old. Therefore, if the defendant’s spouse was 65 years or older, the prosecution may charge him/her with both PC 368 and PC 273.5.
This crime is categorized as a wobbler. The potential penalty for felony elder abuse is a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years or a fine of up to $6,000, or both. The court will enhance these penalties if the alleged victim suffered death or grievous bodily injuries, especially if he/she was or over 70 years old. On the other hand, the penalty for misdemeanor elder abuse is a county jail term of up to six months or a fine whose maximum value is $1,000, or both.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
We at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will help you build an excellent defense strategy if you or loved one is facing PC 273.5 charges. All you need to do is to call our office at 310-564-2605. You can book an appointment with our experienced criminal defense attorneys. We offer our new clients free, initial, and confidential consultations.