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Corporal Injury to Spouse

Penal Code 273.5 PC - Corporal Injury to a Spouse

Corporal injury to spouse or cohabitant charges are defined under California Penal Code 273.5 PC. It's generally described as willfully inflicting a physical injury resulting in a traumatic condition on an intimate partner.

The injuries are often visible but might also include internal injuries. Some common injuries in a PC 273.5 case include scratches, bruising, swelling, broken nose, or a concussion. A "traumatic condition" is a wound or bodily injury caused by directly applying physical force. The injuries don't have to be serious.

PC 273.5 makes it a crime to cause physical injury to a spouse, cohabitant, or dating partner.

A minor wound or injury might be sufficient to be charged with this domestic violence-related crime. The alleged victim can be a current or former spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, cohabitant, or parent of the defendant's children.

Corporal injury to a spouse is also commonly known as domestic violence, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, and willful infliction of a corporal injury.

Again, in this type of domestic violence-related offense, it's typically required that the victim sustain some substantial physical injury, which is the primary difference between the less-serious misdemeanor charges of domestic battery under California Penal Code 243(e)(1).

PC 273.5, corporal injury to a spouse, is a "wobbler" offense, meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Can the Victim "Drop" the Charges?

No. The decision by the DA to file the case is based on the facts of the incident and the defendant's prior criminal history. A typical example in Los Angeles includes a domestic violence incident where a husband grabs his wife's arm during an argument, leaving visible bruises.

Contrary to popular belief, the alleged victim cannot drop the criminal charges later. The district attorney holds the final authority on whether or not to file formal criminal charges.

Simply put, even if the victim later decides they don't want to pursue criminal charges, the DA can still proceed to charge you with corporal injury on a spouse anyway formally.

In most cases, prosecutors assume the victim only wants to drop charges because the defendant is coercing or manipulating them.

What Does the Law Say?

California Penal Code 273.5 says, "(a) Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in subdivision (b) 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."

Corporal Injury to a Spouse

(b) Subdivision (a) shall apply if the victim is or was one or more of the following:

(1) The offender's spouse or former spouse.

(2) The offender's cohabitant or former cohabitant.

(3) The offender's fiancé or fiancée, or someone with whom the offender has, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship, as defined in paragraph (10) of subdivision (f) of Section 243.

(4) The mother or father of the offender's child.

(c) Holding oneself out to be the spouse of the person with whom one is cohabiting is not necessary to constitute cohabitation, as the term is used in this section.

(d) As used in this section, “traumatic condition” means a condition of the body, such as a wound or external or internal injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force. For purposes of this section, “strangulation” and “suffocation” include impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a person by applying pressure on the throat or neck."

Corporal Injury - Quick Facts

  • The term "willfully" means the act was on purpose.
  • A traumatic condition means injuries caused by physical force, such as broken bones, black eye, or internal bleeding.
  • The injuries don't always have to be substantial.
  • Recanting a domestic violence statement does not always result in dropped charges.
  • Minor injuries, such as an abrasion, small cut, or sprained ankle, could prove sufficient for a conviction.
  • The crime of corporal injury on a spouse can only be committed against someone with whom you have an intimate relationship.

What Must Be Proven for a Conviction?

For a Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction under California Penal Code 273.5 PC, they must be able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime, including the following:

  • You willfully inflicted a physical injury on another person.
  • The physical injury resulted in a traumatic condition
  • The person you injured is your current or former intimate partner
  • Your actions were not in self-defense or defense of another.

Suppose the alleged victim suffers a great bodily injury from the incident. In that case, the prosecutor might allege an enhancement that would elevate the charge as a "strike" under California's Three Strike laws.

What are the PC 273.5 Penalties?

The legal penalties for a conviction under Penal Code Section 273.5 can be serious. As noted, this domestic violence offense can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony charge. A misdemeanor corporal injury on a spouse offense includes the following punishments:

  • Up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail
  • A fine of up to $6,000
  • Misdemeanor summary probation

If you are convicted of corporal injury on a spouse as a felony charge, the legal penalties include:

  • Up to two, three, or four in a California state prison
  • A fine of up to $6,000
  • Felony formal probation

Additionally, the legal consequences of a conviction for corporal injury on a spouse will most likely include the following:

  • A restraining order or protective order that will prohibit you from contacting the victim for up to 10 years.
  • The penalties will increase if you have recent prior domestic violence or assault-related convictions, including previous convictions within the past seven years for battery, aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, or any great bodily injury sentence enhancement.
  • A domestic violence-related conviction for an undocumented immigrant can lead to deportation as it's considered a deportable crime under federal law.
  • Corporal injury on a spouse is a crime of moral turpitude, meaning a conviction could impact your ability to obtain specific professional licenses.

What are the Conditions of Probation?

Suppose you are convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony case of Penal Code 273.5 PC corporal injury on a spouse and sentenced to probation (suspended sentence). In that case, your probation conditions will typically include the following:

  • Mandatory 52-week batterer's treatment program.
  • Reimbursement of expenses for the victim to attend counseling.
  • Up to a $5,000 payment to a battered woman's shelter.

Suppose you violate the terms of probation. In that case, you will typically be sentenced to serve time in the county jail. The most common ways to violate probation include the following:

  • Make contact with the victim.
  • Failure to complete the batterers program as ordered by the court.
  • Failure to report to their probation officer.
  • Failure to pay court-ordered fines.

What are Related Crimes?

Other crimes can be charged in connection with 273.5 PC. These domestic violence offenses are often charged along with, or instead of, PC 273.5 corporal injury to a spouse, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery. This is harmful or offensive touching of an intimate partner. It's always a misdemeanor and less serious than corporal injury.
  • Penal Code 368 PC elder abuse. This is willfully or negligently imposing unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a person 65 or older and can be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor.
  • Penal Code 243(d) aggravated battery. This is touching or striking someone in a harmful or offensive manner, causing the person to suffer a serious injury.
  • Penal Code 273a child endangerment. This law covers putting a child at risk of harm and can also be a felony or a misdemeanor.
  • Penal Code 236 false imprisonment. This law covers unlawfully restricting a person's freedom of movement against their will.
  • Penal Code 240 assault. This law covers the unlawful attempt, along with the present ability, to cause a violent injury to another person.
  • Penal Code 242 battery. This law covers the unlawful infliction of force upon another.
  • Penal Code 415 disturbing the peace. This is fighting someone in public, making unreasonable noise to disturb others, or directing fighting words to another.

What are the PC 273.5 Defenses?

An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney uses a variety of legal defenses to have your charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. Every case of corporal injury to a spouse is unique, and a defense strategy will be based on the specific circumstances. Some of the common defenses include the following:

  • Self-defense: Perhaps we can prove you had a reasonable belief that you or another person was in imminent danger of suffering a bodily injury. Thus, you reasonably believed you had to use force to defend yourself immediately and used no more force than necessary. You have the right to defend yourself. Documenting any cuts or bruises you received during the incident could be crucial evidence on your behalf. You have the legal right to defend yourself.
  • False Accusation: It's not uncommon for people to be falsely accused of domestic violence. Sometimes, these false allegations are made out of jealousy, revenge, anger, or an advantage in a child custody dispute. Perhaps we can prove the accusations are false by interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.
  • Accident: You can't be convicted of corporal injury on a spouse unless the district attorney can prove you willfully injured the victim. Perhaps we can present evidence proving the injury was an accident. Possibly, the unintentional injuries occurred during a heated argument, especially if any intoxication was involved.

If you have been accused of corporal injury to a spouse, our domestic violence defense lawyers are committed to defending your legal rights and freedom.

We are skilled courtroom negotiators and may be able to prevent formal charges from being filed against you. Early intervention is critical to the outcome of your case. Call our law firm to closely review the details of your case and discuss a strategy. We can prepare the best domestic violence defenses to give you the chance of a favorable outcome. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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