In California charges for corporal Injury on a spouse are aggressively prosecuted.

Inflicting “corporal injury” means inflicting some type of physical injury, whether minor or serious, that results in a traumatic condition. This means that in order to be convicted you need to inflict actual bodily harm through physical force. Examples of this could include minor bruises or a sprain. One of the difficulties of these cases is that once the case is in police control the alleged victim loses the ability to control charges. It is entirely up to the discretion of the district attorney whether to prosecute. At the Law Offices of Alice Tavoukjian, we are here to listen, investigate your case, and zealously advocated on your behalf. If you want a defense attorney with years of experience representing clients in domestic violence cases; We can help you investigate the facts of your case, develop a strong defense, and fight for you in court.  

What is Corporal Injury on a Spouse?

Penal Code Section 273.5 makes it an offense to willfully inflict a corporal injury on your former or current intimate partner.

To be found guilty, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • You willfully inflicted a corporal (physical) injury,
  • On an intimate partner,
  • The injury led to a traumatic condition.

Discussed below are some legal terms and phrases that will help you understand the above definition.

What is Willful?

You behave willfully when you do something deliberately. You are not required to have actually wanted to violate any law. It is different from being careless or committing the offense unintentionally or accidentally.

Traumatic Condition

The physical force can cause either an external and internal traumatic condition. The condition doesn’t have to be life-threatening or severe. However, the traumatic condition must be a probable and natural consequence of the injuries. This means an individual acting similarly would be reasonably certain to cause the same form of injury the alleged victim sustained.

Perfect examples of traumatic conditions as far as Penal Code Section 273.5 include:

  • Broken bones
  • Concussion
  • Sprains
  • Bruises
  • Injuries stemming from strangulation or suffocation
  • Internal bleeding

The Traumatic Condition Was Due to Physical Force

One of the elements of the crime the prosecutor should establish is that the conduct caused your intimate partner to sustain a traumatic condition.

The traumatic condition can be deemed to be due to the injuries if:

  • It was a probable or natural cause of the injuries suffered,
  • The condition wouldn’t have occurred without the injuries, and
  • The injuries suffered were the significant and direct cause of the traumatic condition.

Intimate Partner

Another element of Penal Code Section 273.5 is that the injury was inflicted on the intimate partner. The legal term “intimate partner’’ in this context means a former or current:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • A cohabitant
  • Parent of your child
  • Fiancé(e)
  • An individual with whom you have a romantic relationship

As far as a corporal injury charge is concerned, a cohabitant is more than a roommate. When determining whether a person is your cohabitant, the court considers the following factors:

  • The maintenance of one residence
  • The uninterrupted continuation of the relationship
  • The length of your relationship
  • Joint-ownership and use of assets
  • Consummation of your relationship while one residence is maintained
  • Shared living expenses and costs

Although persons understand the concept of “father” and “mother,” it’s the definition used under the section in question. A woman is not a mother until she has delivered (People v. Ward) (1998). On the other hand, a man isn’t a father until their baby is delivered. That means a pregnant mother being hurt by a presumed father is not an alleged victim of PC 273.5 unless the involved parties were legal cohabitants or married. However, the defendant might be charged with aggravated battery.

Penalties, Consequences, and Sentencing

Violation of California Penal Code Section 273.5 is a wobbler in California. A wobbler can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the discretion of the prosecution. The discretion will hinge on:

  • Your criminal record
  • The case’s circumstances

You will face felony charges if:

  • The injuries to your intimate partners were severe.
  • You have a domestic violence history or any other aggressive conduct.

Misdemeanor Consequences

If convicted of a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:

  • Six thousand dollars in fines
  • A year in jail

Sometimes the court imposes summary (misdemeanor) probation rather than serving time.

Felony Consequences

A felony carries:

  • Six thousand dollars in fines
  • Up to four years in California state prison

Felony Consequences with Previous Convictions

The crime in question is prosecuted as a wobbler, even when you have a previous conviction for assault or domestic violence.

However, if charges as a felony, the penalties can be enhanced if you have been sentenced for one of the following crimes within the last seven years:

  • Penal Code 273.5
  • Penal Code 243d (Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury)
  • Penal Code 244 (Battery/assault with caustic chemical)
  • Penal Code 244.5
  • Penal Code 245
  • Penal Code 243e
  • Penal Code 243.4 (Sexual battery)

For instance, a previous conviction under Penal Code Section 243e (battery on your spouse), could enhance the penalties to:

  • Ten thousand dollars in fines
  • A two (2), three (3), or four(4)-year imprisonment

However, if previously convicted of any highlighted crimes above other than PC 243e, your felony consequences could enhance to:

  • A maximum of ten thousand dollars in fines
  • A two, three, or five-year imprisonment

Corporal Injury Causing Great Bodily Injuries

If your spouse was severely injured, you might face a sentencing enhancement per Penal Code Section 12022.7. The enhancement adds an additional consecutive sentence of three (3), four (4), or five (5)-year in California state prison.

Great bodily injuries are significant physical injuries.

Penal Code Section 273.5 Carries Immigration Penalties

Under federal immigration laws, inflicting corporal injury is a crime of domestic violence and is a deportable offense.

In California certain aggravated felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude. These crimes are described as either involving dishonesty or vile conduct that is shocking to a reasonable person, and can carry the following consequences:

  • No likelihood of becoming a United States citizen
  • No entitlement to re-enter the U.S after leaving
  • You cannot apply for an adjustment of status (change from unlawful to legal immigration status) or a green card.

Great Bodily Injury is a Strike

If you violate corporal injury law and the offense causes great bodily injury to your intimate partner, it’s both a strike per Three Strikes law and a serious felony.

If sentenced for a serious felony and later accused of a felony, you’ll be considered a second striker. That means you could face double the maximum sentence for the crime. And if you have two previous strikes, a subsequent felony charge could result in a sentence of twenty-five-years to life.

A second or third striker will likely complete eighty percent of their sentence before they can be released.

The Judge

Can Choose to Impose Probation

As previously mentioned, the judge can impose probation rather than a sentence. There are two types of probation and they mainly depend on whether your conviction was a felony or a misdemeanor, namely:

  • Misdemeanor (summary) probation
  • Felony (formal) probation

Generally, California misdemeanor probation lasts for up to three years. On the other hand, felony probation can be between three (3) and five (5) years and could entail serving time for a year. It can be granted if this is your first offense or if mitigating factors exist.

During the probation period, you should comply with all terms including:

  • Paying fines
  • Reimbursement or compensation to the intimate partner if he/she suffered financial damage originating from the injuries
  • Enrollment in a batterers program or treatment program for alcohol — You might be required to complete at least one program.
  • A search of your property or person with or without a warrant
  • Performing community service
  • Adhering to a protective order or restraining order that makes it illegal to contact your intimate partner for ten (10) years
  • Breaking no law
  • A fifteen-day jail stay if you have a previous DV or assault conviction within seven (7) years or a sixty-day sentence if you’ve at least two previous convictions for a crime involving assault or DV

What Takes Place If You Violate the Terms and Conditions of Probation?

If you fail to comply with the terms, the court will hold probation violation hearing to determine if probation was violated. If the court finds a violation, the judge could:

  • Impose a maximum sentence for the PC 273.5
  • Revoke your probation

If there is a valid reason for your violation, the judge could continue your probation. Alternatively, if there was not the judge could make the terms harsher or increase the length of probation. Consult with your defense attorney about what you can do to avoid any probation violations or how to mitigate any consequences of a violation.

Fighting Penal Code Section 273.5 Charges

There are numerous ways to get your PC 273.5 charge reduced or even dismissed. Although no case is alike, some of the defenses which could be valid include:

Self-Defense or Defense of Another

If Self-defense applies you cannot be convicted under PC 273.5, this defense requires that each of the following elements be met:

  • You reasonably believe that you or another individual was in imminent risk of sustaining bodily harm,
  • You thought the immediate use of force was essential to safeguard against the risk, and
  • The degree of force used was reasonably necessary under the circumstances.

False Accusations

Allegations of domestic violence are taken seriously. As a result, individuals can be wrongly detained based on a false accusation. These accusations could stem from anger, revenge, or even a mistake or misidentification.

Your defense attorney can fight false allegations by:

  • Interviewing the alleged victim’s colleagues, family, friends, and online contacts
  • Subpoenaing the alleged victim’s social media platforms, email, and text messages
  • Conducting background checks of the alleged victim and relevant witnesses

Thorough investigations can reveal the accuser’s hidden agenda, and presentation of such evidence has a high likelihood of resulting in a reduction of charges through plea bargaining sometimes even a dismissal of the case.

Willfulness Lacking in their Actions

Willfully injuring your spouse or intimate partner is a necessary element of this crime. That means any accidental injury, irrespective of whether it happened during an argument, isn’t by itself sufficient.

In the above situation, the accused could get their case dismissed or have the charges reduced to a lesser crime like domestic battery.

You Could Use Insanity as a Legal Defense

The test for determining whether you are lawfully insane is called the M’Naghten test. The insanity defense can be applicable if you committed the offense because:

  • You did not understand the nature or quality of your conduct, or
  • You could not tell the difference between right and wrong.

If found innocent based on insanity, you might be taken to a psychiatric facility until the judge reasonably believes you are no longer a threat to the community.

Related Offenses

Discussed below are crimes that can be charged alongside or in place of Penal Code Section 273.5:

Domestic Battery

Per PC 243(e)(1), it is unlawful to touch your intimate partner in an offensive or harmful manner. Domestic battery is a les severe offense compared to corporal injury because there is no injury requirement. As such, this can be a desirable plea bargain or charge reduction.

It is charged as a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:

  • A one-year sentence
  • Fines of two thousand dollars

Instead however, the court could choose to grant probation and impose enrollment in a batterer’s treatment program.

Disturbing the Peace (PC 415)

Under Penal Code Section 415, it’s an offense to:

  • Disturb a person with a loud noise,
  • Illegally fight in a public area, or
  • Use offensive words in a public place.

Often, the prosecutor will reduce DV charge to California PC 415 during plea bargain negotiations. This is an excellent alternative to being charged under Penal Code Section 273.5 because:

  • Penal Code Section 415 doesn’t have the immigration consequences, penalties, or stigma of a DV conviction.
  • PC 415 is a low-level misdemeanor. Sometimes, even an infraction.

If convicted, you will pay four hundred dollars in fines and spend ninety days in jail.

Elder Abuse (PC 368)

According to PC 368, it’s an offense to:

  • Willfully,
  • Cause or permit either the mental or physical pain and suffering,
  • On an individual older than sixty-five years

The violation of PC 368 is charged as a wobbler in California. If charges as a misdemeanor it carries a one thousand dollar fine and six months in jail. While a felony is penalized by a fine of six thousand dollars, and two, three, or four years in California state prison.

The felony penalties can be enhanced if the alleged victim sustained great bodily injuries, died, or was more than seventy-years old.

Child Abuse Law

If you are accused of PC 273.5 and have children, you may be prosecuted for child endangerment. While this is a misdemeanor, it could be charged as a California felony if it is alleged you endangered the life of the minor.

What Takes Place If the Alleged Victim Refuses to Testify Against You?

It is not uncommon for the alleged victims of domestic violence to decide to recant their accusations or not want to testify against the accused. While this can be helpful, it does not necessarily mean the prosecution’s team will drop the charges.

If Your Spouse Fails to Testify

If the alleged victim of domestic violence refuses to testify against the accused at trial the prosecution has the power to subpoena. This means the alleged victim could be made to appear in a court of law and testify against their will.

Both the prosecution and your defense attorney will likely subpoena witnesses. Should the witness refuse, the judge will issue a warrant for their arrest. Ensure that you consult with your defense attorney about all potential witnesses to the relevant events in your case.

The Alleged Victim Can

not be Forced into a Court of Law

Sometimes an alleged victim or witness refuses to testify, either by leaving the jurisdiction, or going into hiding. Under section 1200(a) of the Evidence Code statements made by these witnesses are hearsay and often inadmissible in court. Hearsay is a statement made by someone other than the testifying witness and is offered to establish the truth of the statement.

These out-of-court statements will be excluded because of the accused’s right to confront and cross examine the witnesses against them. Therefore, if the witness cannot be brought into court the charges will likely be dismissed for insufficient evidence. Once dismissed you can file for a criminal record sealing, to prevent the disclosure of your arrest record.

The Victim Plans to Drop the Charges Against You

The victim could ultimately decide that they want to drop charges instead of suing the defendant. While it is unlikely, the prosecution may choose to continue to prosecute the case, if they believe:

  • The defendant coerced or threatened the victim.
  • The defendant has emotionally manipulated the victim.

While the prosecutors may be unwilling to drop the case, the alleged victim’s reluctance to help creates challenges to the prosecution. If as a result the evidence against the accused is weak it can be much easier to persuade the prosecution to offer a plea bargain or dismiss the charges all-together. 

Expungement for Corporal Injury on a Spouse

Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.4, you can petition a court of law to expunge a conviction if it is for a misdemeanor or if you did not serve time in California state prison. This is beneficial because the general public cannot access an expunged conviction. This means potential employers and landlords will not be able to discover this information when conducting routine background checks. However, the record can be accessed by public employers.

Find Legal Representation Near Me

If you have been charged with causing corporal injury to your spouse in Alhambra, Pasadena, and Los Angeles counties know that these charges are taken seriously. As such, if you are convicted you are likely to face fines, incarceration, and other consequences that will adversely affect your career, future, and life in general. At the Law Offices of Alice Tavoukjian, we are here to listen, investigate your case, and fight for your constitutional rights.

So, if you or someone you know are facing charges of causing corporal injury to a spouse call us now at 626-386-8606 to explore which options are available to you.