The crime of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse arises when you use physical violence to cause traumatic injury to a person with whom you have an intimate relationship. California law is stringent for offenders who commit crimes of domestic violence. Therefore, causing even a minor visible injury to your spouse or cohabitant. Inflicting corporal injury on a spouse is charged under California PC 273.5, and a conviction may result in serious and life-changing consequences.

In addition to the jail time and fines you must pay for this crime, the conviction leaves a permanent record that could destroy your personal and professional life. Therefore, if you or your loved one battles charges for an offense under this statute, it would be wise to enlist the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we understand the impact that a conviction under PC 273.5 could have on your life, and we will build a solid defense to avoid a conviction. We serve clients seeking legal guidance and representation to fight criminal charges in Chula Vista, CA.

Overview of California Penal Code 273.5

California PC 273.5 defines corporal injury on a spouse as an act of inflicting physical violence on a former or intimate partner resulting in a traumatic condition. Before you face a conviction for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, the prosecution must establish these elements of the crime:

You Willfully Caused Physical Harm to the Victim

One factor that needs to be clear before you are found guilty under this statute is that your actions were deliberate. Regardless of your intentions when you acted, the fact that your actions harmed the victim is sufficient to satisfy the element. When you present your defense to the case, you cannot argue that you did not intend to harm the victim. As long as you intend to use force on your spouse, you can face a conviction for the offense.

Additionally, it should be clear that a reasonable person would have known that your actions could result in force or violence against the victim.

The physical harm you inflicted on the victim Resulted in a Traumatic Condition.

For your actions to meet the definition of corporal injury under California law, the prosecutor must prove that your actions resulted in a traumatic condition. For this statute, a traumatic condition is bodily injury or wounds resulting from the application of force. Since the severity of the injury is not a factor in your conviction, a minor visible injury could suffice. The following are some common examples of traumatic conditions that constitute corporal injury:

  • Internal bleeding

  • Bruises

  • A sprain

  • Broken bones

  • Injuries that result from suffocation or strangulation

Additionally, the prosecutor must show that the traumatic condition resulted from your actions. A traumatic condition could be the result of physical injury if:

  • The traumatic condition is a natural and probable result of the injury

  • The traumatic condition could not have happened without the injury

  • The injury was a substantial and direct cause of the condition

The Alleged Victim is or was your Intimate Partner

Charges for corporal injury on a spouse only apply when the victim is your intimate partner. An intimate partner could be any of the following people:

  • A current or former spouse

  • A registered domestic partner

  • Fiancé

  • Cohabitant

  • A person with whom you have a serious relationship

  • The other parent of your child

Some of the factors that the court could consider to determine whether two individuals were cohabitants at the time of the crime include:

  • There has been a sexual relationship during the period of living together

  • You and the victim share ownership of the residence r share expenses

  • Statements have been made to indicate that you and the victim considered yourselves domestic partners

  • The length and continuity of your relationship

In California, it is possible to have more than one cohabitant. Therefore, you can face multiple charges under PC 273.5 brought by different victims.

What is The Difference between Domestic Battery and Corporal Injury to a Spouse?

Domestic battery and corporal injury on a spouse is domestic violence crimes committed against an intimate partner. However, the main difference between the two crimes is the injury. You will only be convicted of violating PC 273.5 if the alleged victim suffered some injury due to your actions. On the other hand, a conviction for domestic battery under CPC 243(e) does not require any evidence of injury to the victim.

For this reason, violation of PC 273.5 is a more severe offense. When the injury is brought to the right, corporal injury on a spouse could attract felony charges. However, domestic battery is always charged as a misdemeanor. If you are charged with corporal injury of a spouse, you can seek to have the charges to a domestic battery which is a lesser offense. Whether you PC 243(e) or 273.5 charges, seeking legal guidance is vital.

Legal Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse in California

In California, corporal injury on a spouse is a wobbler. The prosecutor could charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor. When deciding on the nature of the charges, the prosecutor will consider the factors surrounding the case. If you have an extensive history of domestic violence or the injury you caused to your spouse is severe, you are likely to face felony charges.

As a misdemeanor, a conviction for corporal injury to a spouse attracts the following punishment:

  • A maximum jail sentence of one year

  • Up to $6000 in fine

  • Informal probation

If you are charged with a felony violation of CPC 273.5, a conviction will attract the following legal penalties:

  • A prison sentence of between two to four years

  • A jail sentence of up to one year

  • Fines not exceeding $6,000

  • A combination of jail time and fines

If you have a prior conviction for assault, domestic battery, or sexual battery on your record and the conviction is within seven years of PC 273.5, you may be subject to the following penalties:

  • State imprisonment for up to five years

  • Fines not exceeding $10,000

  • Combination of fines and prison time

In addition to the jail time and fines, a conviction for corporal injury to a spouse will attract the following consequences:

  • Issuance of a restraining order. A restraining order can be quite harmful, especially when you live with the victim. You will be forced to move out for the duration indicated in the order.

  • A protective order requires you to refrain from harassment, further acts of violence, or stalking the victim.

  • Mandatorily enrollment in domestic violence classes for up to one year.

  • Victim restitution for the amounts used to cater for medical bills and counseling resulting from the crime.

  • Court-ordered community service

Immigration Consequences 

Corporal Injury to a spouse is a crime of domestic violence. When charged as a felony, the offense is classified under crimes of moral turpitude. A conviction for violating PC 273.5 could result in serious immigration consequences, including deportation or being rendered inadmissible. Being inadmissible in the United States means that you cannot re-enter the country once you leave. Additionally, you will not have a right to apply for an adjustment of status or a Greencard.

A Strike under California Three Strikes Law

If you are convicted for corporal injury on a spouse where the victim suffered severe bodily injury, your conviction will be a strike under California Three Strikes Law. A strike in your record will result in penalty enhancements for future felony convictions.

Probation for Inflicting Corporal Injury on a Spouse

Sometimes, judges in California suspend the imposition of a jail or prison sentence and gives you probation instead. Probation can either be formal or informal. Informal probation is an alternative to jail time for misdemeanor convictions, and it lasts between one to three years. On the other hand, formal probation is an alternative to prison time for felony convictions, and it lasts up to five years.

You will not serve the entire jail or prison sentence if you are sentenced to probation after a PC 273.5 conviction. Although probation keeps you out of prison, there are some conditions you must comply with, including:

  • Payment of fines and victim restitution

  • Payment of up to $5000 to a battered women’s shelter

  • Avoid involvement in criminal activity while on probation

  • Complying with the protective or restraining or5dered issued against you 

If you violate any of the above terms of probation, the court will hold a probation violation hearing. If your violation is proven, the judge could reinstate your probation with harsher conditions or revoke your probation to impose a jail or prison sentence.

Defenses against PC 273.5 Charges

The penalties accompanying a conviction for corporal injury on a spouse are severe when you face misdemeanor charges and even harsher after a felony conviction. Long after you have served your jail or prison sentence, you will be left to deal with the conviction's criminal record effects.

Many people are very wary when associating with convicted felons. Therefore, your ability to secure a job or even a place to live will be impaired. It is vital to start building your defense against PC 273.5 charges when you face an arrest. When defending against these charges, your attorney could raise these defenses:

  1. Self Defense or Defense of Others

It is common for serious injuries to result from a two-sided domestic dispute. For example, you may be fighting with your partner, and when they become threatening, you react in a way that causes them injuries. California self-defense laws seek to protect individuals who face domestic violence charges for trying to defend themselves from a dangerous situation.

If you can protect yourself in a fight, you do not have a legal obligation to flee. Therefore, you can argue that you caused injury to the victim while defending yourself or another person. However, this defense will only be applicable if you can prove the following elements:

  • You reasonably believed that you were in danger of suffering severe bodily harm

  • You believed that using force was a necessary move to keep yourself or another person safe

  • The amount of force you used against the victim was reasonable and only enough to protect yourself and not harm them

If you can prove these elements during your trial, you could escape a conviction for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse.

  1. False Accusations

 It is not uncommon to encounter corporal injury cases stemming from false accusations against a spouse. Since California law is stringent on individuals who commit domestic violence crimes, a person could use this fact to bring false allegations against you. Some of the reasons that motivate people to bring false domestic violence allegations are revenge, jealousy, or even an attempt to gain the upper hand in family court during divorce and child custody hearings.

With the guidance of your defense attorney, you could dispute the baseless accusations by:

  • Subpoenaing the accuser’s messages, emails, and other social media accounts

  • Interviewing friends, coworkers, and family members of the accused

  • Conducting a background check on the witnesses brought by the accuser

If you find inconsistencies in the information provided by the alleged victim, it may be all you need to avoid a conviction.

  1. Claim that the Injury was Accidental

Often, accidents between intimate partners could become heated, resulting in one of them acting unintentionally. If you contact your partner that resulted in injury, they could call the police, and the result will be you facing charges for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse. However, one of the elements that should be clear before a conviction is that your actions were willful. If your conduct was accidental and you did not intend to cause harm, you cannot be convicted for the offense.

When a corporal injury case on a spouse goes to court, the prosecution will pursue the case even when the victim decides to drop the charges. When the victim refuses to pursue the charges, the prosecutor could assume that the defendant was coerced or threatened. However, if the victim in your case fails to show up in court and testify, it may be challenging for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction in your best interests.

  1. Give Alternative Explanations for the victim’s injury.

Since the charges for corporal injury on a spouse are based on the visible injury on the victim, the accuser could have injuries, but you did not cause them. You can fight these charges by proving that the victim’s injuries resulted from something other than your actions.

Offenses Related to Corporal Injury on a Spouse in California

The following are some offenses that are related to a corporal injury to a spouse:

Battery

Under California PC 242, you commit a crime of battery when you willfully and unlawfully use force or violence on another individual. There is no requirement that the force results in injuries. Therefore, a simple offensive or unwanted touch could attract battery charges. The prosecutor must prove that you intentionally used force on the alleged victim during your trial.

Offensive touching without causing injury to the victim will result in simple battery charges. Simple battery is a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts these penalties:

  • A jail sentence of up to six months

  • Misdemeanor probation instead of jail time

  • A fine that does not exceed $2,000

  • Anger management classes

  • A ten-year firearm restriction if you used a firearm to commit the crime

If you use force against another person and, as a result, you cause them serious injury, you will be charged with aggravated battery. Aggravated battery is a wobbler, and when charged as a felony, it attracts the following penalties:

  • Felony probation

  • A prison sentence of up to four years

  • Fines amounting to $10,000

Child Endangerment

Often, child abuse charges go together with domestic violence laws. If you inflict corporal injury on your spouse in front of a minor, you can face additional charges for child endangerment. Under California PC 273a, child endangerment is defined as the crime of willfully exposing a child under eighteen years to the danger of unjustifiable harm. You can be charged and convicted for child endangerment even when the minor does not suffer injuries.

The prosecutor must prove these elements when establishing your guilt under this statute:

  • You allowed a minor in your care to be subjected to a dangerous situation

  • When you put the child’s safety on the line, you were criminally negligent

  • You were not excising your right to discipline the child

Child endangerment is a California wobbler. If your behavior did not create a risk of serious injury, your crime is likely to be a misdemeanor. A conviction for a Misdemeanor PC 273a attracts a jail sentence of six months and a fine not exceeding $1,000. Additionally, you may be able to serve probation instead of jail time if you are a low-risk offender.

There is a risk of significant injury to the minor, child endangerment becomes a felony. In this case, a conviction for the offense is punishable by a sentence of up to six years in state prison and fines not exceeding $10,000.

Disturbing Peace

You can face charges for disturbing the peace if you engage in any of the following acts:

  • Fight in a public place

  • Using offensive language in a public place

  • Disturbing other people with loud music

Sometimes, prosecutors are willing to accept a plea bargain of disturbing the peace for defendants facing domestic violence charges. This could be a great outcome when you face charges for corporal injury on a spouse because:

  • Disturbing peace is often an infraction that may not attract jail time

  • A conviction for disturbing peace does not attract social stigma, immigration consequences, or firearm restrictions

A conviction for disturbing peace attracts a maximum jail sentence of ninety days or a $400 fine.

Assault

Assault is an unlawful attempt with the present ability to inflict violent injury on another person. You can be arrested and charged with simple assault if you willfully engage in any behavior which results in the application of force towards an individual. Thus, to be convicted of simple assault, the prosecutor must prove these elements:

  • You willfully acted in a manner that would typically apply force to another individual. Application of force could be anything from slight offensive touching. Additionally, the contact that constitutes a simple battery does not need to be direct.

  • You intended to inflict a violent injury on the alleged victim.

  • You knew that your actions could cause injury to the victim.

  • You had the immediate ability to inflict violent injury on the victim.

Assault is a misdemeanor charged under CPC 240. If you are found guilty of the offense, you could be sentenced to jail time of up to six months and $1,000 in fines. If you face multiple charges of assault, you will face additional penalties. Penalties for violating PC 240 will increase if the victim of the assault is a firefighter, a police officer, or a member of the emergency response team.

Find a Competent Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you inflict physical harm that causes a traumatic condition on your domestic partner or spouse, you can be arrested and charged with corporal injury on a spouse under California PC 273.5. Inflicting corporal injury on a spouse is a crime of domestic violence which has a mandatory arrest in California. Therefore, when an officer arrives at the scene finds probable cause to arrest you, you will be taken to jail, and the prosecutor will file charges against you.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, this crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Either way, you are looking at serious jail time, hefty fines, and a criminal record that will follow you long after completing your sentence. When you face charges for corporal injury to a spouse, your best move is to contact your attorney.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we will use our extensive knowledge and experience in defending domestic violence cases to put up a defense for a possible reduction or dismissal of your charges. If you or a loved one battles criminal charges in Chula Vista, CA, we invite you to call us at 619-877-6894 today.