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273.5 California Statute

273.5 California Statute

273.5 California Statute

California Penal Code § 273.5 makes it a criminal offense to inflict corporal injury on someone you have an intimate relationship with. Courts and lawyers often refer to this offense as Corporal Injury to a Spouse, but it is commonly known as just domestic violence or domestic abuse.

This crime is a wobbler, meaning a criminal defense attorney can file a criminal charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Corporal injury refers to any physical injury, whether serious or minor.

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Under the law, it is a felony to willfully inflict corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon someone who is your:

  • Your spouse or former spouse
  • Your cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • Your fiancé or fiancée
  • Someone you have or previously had an engagement or dating relationship
  • Your mother or father
  • Your child

While this crime is similar to domestic battery, it is unique because it requires an actual injury.

If you face allegations of violating this law or any other type of domestic violence, you should immediately retain an attorney. At Chudnovsky Law, we understand that allegations of domestic violence do not make them true and are committed to vigorously defending our clients’ rights. Contact us today to speak to a Long Beach criminal defense lawyer.

Common Examples of Corporal Injuries

Many people wonder what exactly constitutes a corporal injury. Again, California Penal Code § 273.5 states that corporal injury to a spouse is willfully inflicting a physical injury resulting in a traumatic condition on an intimate partner. Willfully indicates that a person must know that their actions violated the law.

A traumatic condition can relate to internal or external injuries caused by force.

Some of the most common examples of corporal injuries include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Broken bones
  • Black eyes
  • Severe abrasions
  • Swelling
  • Head trauma
  • Broken nose
  • Concussion
  • A bullet wound
  • A ligament sprain or a strained muscle
  • Cuts or a lacerations

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotional distress, property damage, financial losses, and physical contact that does not leave a mark or cause physical injuries are not corporal injuries.

Additional Names for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is well-known among most people in California, but the crime goes by many other names. Domestic abuse is one common variation.

Others include:

  • Spousal abuse
  • Family violence
  • Relationship abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Intimate partner violence

Corporal Injury Penalties

A misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code § 273.5 is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000. Felony violations are punishable by up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $6,000.

When a conviction is within seven years of a conviction for corporal injury on a spouse, assault or battery resulting in serious bodily injury, assault or battery with a caustic chemical, assault with a stun gun, assault with a deadly weapon, or sexual battery, the offense becomes punishable by up to five years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. When a conviction is within seven years of a conviction for battery on a spouse, the offense is punishable by up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

Additional Corporal Injury Conviction Consequences

When prosecuted as a felony, corporal injury convictions carry many additional consequences. Some of these include being subject to domestic violence restraining orders, losing the right to own a firearm, and potentially losing professional licenses. Assembly Bill No. 3129 (AB 3129) established that people convicted of misdemeanor willful infliction of corporal injury offenses can never legally possess a firearm.

Under California law, all job applicants must disclose certain criminal convictions. Applicants who do not disclose felony convictions may not qualify for a job if the employer finds out, and their employer might fire them when they discover the conviction later.

When employers fire their employees for dishonesty, they will be ineligible for unemployment benefits. It is important to remember that federal guidelines recommend that companies do not automatically disqualify all felons.

A potential employer cannot ask a person about arrests or detentions that did not result in a conviction, arrests for which a person completed drug diversion, personal use marijuana-related offenses that are more than two years old, sealed juvenile sustained petitions arrests, sealed, expunged or legally eradicated convictions, or misdemeanor convictions for which the employee completed probation and the court dismissed the case.

Employers can ask people about convictions and pending cases that do not fall into one of the above-listed categories.

Doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, teachers, social workers, lawyers, and real estate agents or brokers are all professions for which felony convictions can impact professional licenses. People can often be entitled to administrative hearings to prevent the possible loss of a license.

People convicted of felonies will typically cannot enlist in the United States Armed Forces unless they receive a waiver from the Secretary of Defense. A felony conviction typically subjects a person to a lifetime ban from owning or possessing a gun in California unless a court restores their firearms rights.

All convictions can also lead to serious immigration consequences for non-citizens, including possible deportation. People can file a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to avoid removal proceedings based on a criminal conviction, as a waiver involves the federal government excusing a criminal offense and allowing a person to either keep their green card or apply to adjust their status. 

Corporal Injury Defenses

One common defense in many corporal injury cases is false allegations, as it is possible that another person reported an incident that does not qualify as corporal injury. In other cases, people may claim that their actions were entirely accidental, meaning they did not satisfy the willfulness element of the law.

Self-defense can be another common defense, as people have the right to defend themselves when they feel threatened. Consent can be another defense when an injury occurs due to an activity two people are participating in together.

Intoxication can be another defense when a person argues that their impairment was the cause of their actions, not willful actions. Another defense can simply be that two people were mutually fighting.

Defining Corporal Injury to a Spouse

A person violates California Penal Code § 273.5 when they willfully inflict a physical injury on a current or former intimate partner, and the physical injury results in a traumatic condition. It is important to understand how all of these terms are defined.

A person acts willfully when they do anything intentionally. A person does not necessarily have to willfully cause an injury, as people can still be guilty of this crime when they willfully take any kind of action that ends up causing an injury.

A traumatic condition is a wound or other bodily injury caused by the direct application of physical force. While a traumatic condition certainly sounds serious, it is important to understand that even minor injuries can qualify as traumatic conditions.

Common traumatic conditions may include broken bones, concussions, internal bleeding, sprains, bruises, or injuries caused by suffocation or strangulation. To fall within the meaning of the law, the traumatic condition must have been a natural and probable result of the injury, the injury was a direct and substantial cause of the traumatic condition, and the condition might not have happened without the injury.

Intimate partner can be another complicated element in these cases, as an intimate partner can be a person’s spouse, registered domestic partner, live-in boyfriend or girlfriend (cohabitant), fiancé(e), parent of a child, or a person with whom there is a serious dating relationship.

Factors determining whether a person was cohabiting include sexual relations between people while sharing the same residence, sharing of income or expenses, joint use or ownership of property, presenting themselves as being in a serious relationship, the continuity of the relationship, and the length of the relationship.

California Penal Code § 273.5 Penalties

Prosecutors can charge Corporal Injury to a Spouse as a misdemeanor or a felony. Such choices are at the prosecutor’s discretion, and a prosecutor’s choice will usually depend on the facts of the case and an alleged offender’s criminal record.

A felony is more likely to be charged if injuries to the intimate partner are serious and/or an alleged offender has a history of domestic violence complaints or other aggressive acts. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000.

Felony penalties can include up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $6,000. Felony convictions are subject to enhancements when a person has been convicted in the past seven years of either corporal injury on a spouse, assault or battery resulting in serious bodily injury, assault or battery with a caustic chemical, assault with a stun gun, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, or battery on a spouse.

When a prior conviction is for the battery of a spouse, felony penalties for corporal injury of a spouse will increase to up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Prior convictions for all other offenses listed above can mean felony penalties for corporal injury of a spouse will be up to five years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

California Penal Code § 12022.7 establishes a sentencing enhancement for certain felony cases to impose additional prison time when an alleged offender inflicts great bodily injury on a victim while committing an underlying felony crime. Great bodily injury is any significant physical injury, and an enhancement will add a consecutive sentence of three to five years in state prison.

Some judges in California may opt to place alleged offenders on probation instead of sentencing them to jail or prison. Probation in California is usually either summary misdemeanor probation or formal felony probation.

Misdemeanor (summary) probation usually lasts one to three years, while felony (formal) probation can last three to five years and includes a person serving as much as one year in county jail. Courts only grant felony (formal) probation when an alleged offender is a first-time offender, or other significant mitigating factors exist.

People on probation will need to comply with certain guidelines. Some of the conditions commonly imposed will include paying fines, paying victim restitution, paying a domestic violence shelter, attending domestic violence classes, completing community service or Caltrans roadside work, not breaking any other laws, complying with a restraining order or protective order prohibiting contact with an alleged victim for up to 10 years, and a minimum jail stay of 15 days when an alleged offender has a prior conviction in the past seven years for an offense involving assault or domestic violence or 60 days for two or more prior convictions.

If a person fails to comply with the conditions of probation, a judge will schedule a probation violation hearing. If the violation occurred, a judge may continue probation as before, impose new conditions, or revoke probation and send a person to jail or prison to serve the maximum sentence.

Defending Against Corporal Injury Charges

Three of the most common defenses to corporal injury charges are that an alleged offender was acting in self-defense, an alleged offender did not willfully injure another person, or that the allegations are false. Self-defense will only be applicable when a person reasonably believes that they or someone else was in imminent danger of bodily injury, the person reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and the person used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

The lack of willfulness is another common defense. It can be difficult for a prosecutor to prove what was going on in an alleged offender’s mind, and defendants can often introduce circumstantial evidence that tends to show that causing the injury was unintentional.

When there are false allegations, then an attorney for criminal defense can subpoena the alleged victim’s emails, text messages, and social networking accounts, interview the alleged victim and their family, friends, co-workers, and online contacts to conduct a thorough background check on the alleged victim and any alleged witnesses. False allegations are common in relationships that involve jealousy, anger, or any desire for revenge.

When Victims Refuse to Testify?

It is uncommon for alleged victims in these cases to refuse to testify or recant their allegations. Even when an alleged victim does not want to pursue a criminal case, the decision to prosecute will depend entirely on the prosecutor, who may move forward with a case even when the alleged victim will not cooperate.

In many cases, people assume they are in the clear when the alleged victim says they do not want to press charges, but again, the charging decisions are made exclusively by the prosecutor. When an alleged victim refuses to testify, the prosecutor may subpoena them to come to court and testify against their wishes.

Crimes Charged in Connection with Corporal Injury

Different domestic violence offenses that prosecutors can charge in addition to or instead of corporal injury to a spouse or intimate partner.

These charges can include the following:

  • Domestic Battery, California Penal Code § 243(e)(1). This law states that battery against a spouse, a person with whom an alleged offender is cohabiting, any person who is the parent of an alleged offender’s child, a former spouse, a fiancé or fiancée, or a person with whom the alleged offender currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship, constitutes domestic battery. Domestic battery does not require that an alleged victim suffer an injury. This is typically a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Disturbing the Peace, California Penal Code § 415. Disturbing the peace violations involve people fighting another person in public, making unreasonable noise to disturb others, or directing provocative fighting words toward another person in public. Prosecutors and judges often reduce domestic violence crimes to disturbing the peace, a low-level misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $400.
  • Elder Abuse, California Penal Code § 368. This law makes it a crime to willfully or negligently impose unjustifiable physical pain and/or mental suffering on a person 65 or older. When an intimate partner is 65 or older, a person can face corporal injury and elder abuse charges. Elder abuse is a wobbler offense, with the misdemeanor being punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, while a felony is punishable by up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $6,000.

Consult our Long Beach Corporal Injury Attorneys Now.

If the police have arrested you for allegedly causing corporal injury in California, you should retain legal counsel immediately.

Chudnovsky Law can quickly step in and immediately begin examining your possible defenses against these charges. Call (562) 800-4080 or contact our Long Beach corporal injury attorneys online to arrange a free consultation.

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