“I have represented many people accused of domestic violence and corporal injury in the Los Angeles and Pasadena area Courts. These cases tend to be specifically emotional for the accused, because many times the incident was sparked by a legitimate grievance that escalated into a physical argument.  Sometimes a scorned partner falsely accuses the other of physical harm, leading to the wrong person being arrested. Officers routinely arrest people after a 911 domestic violence call even when there are no signs of physical injury and the one arrested presented a credible defense.  Just because you are arrested for domestic violence does not mean you will be convicted of it. Too many times the person arrested is factually innocent or the “true” victim. Other times, people make mistakes and over-react in a heated argument. What ever the situation, I listen to my client’s story with compassion and without judgement. I do my best to help my clients get the best possible results.--Ann Gottesman, Attorney

According to California PC 273.5, it is a crime to inflict corporal injury on your current or former spouse, co-parent, cohabitant, or dating partner. A violation of PC 273.5 is a wobbler, meaning that the prosecutor may charge it as a felony or misdemeanor. Inflicting any physical injury to your spouse or cohabitant, no matter how minor, may qualify as corporal injury. If you face corporal injury charges in Pasadena, CA, The Law Office of Ann Gottesman can help you fight the charges.

The Definition Of Corporal Injury

The California PC 273.5 defines the crime of corporal injury to a spouse or your intimate partner. You may violate PC 273.5 if you:

  • Willfully or intentionally inflict a physical injury
  • You inflict the injury on your current or former spouse/intimate partner
  • The bodily injury causes a traumatic condition

A person acts intentionally or willfully if they do something on purpose. Acting intentionally or willfully does not mean that you intended to break the law. For example, you may violate PC 273.5 if you grab your spouse's hand and twist it while arguing with your spouse about child custody. However, you may not have intended to break the law while twisting your spouse’s arm. Perhaps you only intended to intimidate them. However, because you acted intentionally, you will face corporal injury charges.

Causing a Traumatic Condition

For you to face corporal injury charges, the injuries you inflict on your spouse should cause a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is any bodily injury or wound that results from a direct application of force on a person. The damage doesn't need to be serious for you to face the charges. Even a minor injury or wound will attract charges. Some examples of injuries that qualify as traumatic conditions under California law are:

  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains
  • Internal bleeding
  • Injuries resulting from strangulation or suffocation
  • Bruises

For you to face corporal injury charges, the traumatic condition must have resulted from your direct application of force on the victim. A traumatic condition is considered to be a direct result of your actions in the following situations:

  • The condition was a natural and probable consequence of the inflicted injury.
  • The inflicted injury was a direct and significant cause of the victim's traumatic condition.
  • The victim wouldn't have suffered the traumatic condition without the injury inflicted by the defendant.

An Intimate Partner

You can only face corporal injury charges if you inflict injuries on an intimate partner. The following people qualify as intimate partners:

  • A registered domestic partner
  • Spouse
  • Fiancée
  • A live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, commonly known as a cohabitant
  • Someone with whom the defendant has a child
  • Any person in a serious dating relationship with the defendant

The court usually considers several factors to determine whether people are domestic partners or cohabitants:

  • Whether they share income and expenses
  • Sharing the same residence and whether the parties have sexual relations
  • Joint property use or ownership
  • The parties involved consider themselves to be in a dating relationship
  • The length and the continuity of the relationship

As outlined by the California domestic violence laws, a defendant can simultaneously live with or cohabit with several people.

The Punishment For Violating PC 273.5

The prosecutor may charge the crime of corporal injury as a felony or misdemeanor because it is a wobbler offense. Whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the prosecutor’s discretion. When assigning charges, the prosecutor considers the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case. You are likely to face felony charges if you inflict severe penalties on your intimate partner. You are also expected to face felony charges if you have a history of aggressive conduct or domestic violence.

When charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for corporal injury are:

  • A jail time of up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000

In some instances, the judge may recommend a summary (misdemeanor) probation instead of sending you to jail.

If the prosecutor charges the crime of corporal injury as a felony, the penalties include:

  • Imprisonment in state prison for two, three, or four years
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000

Instead of sending you to state prison, the judge may recommend formal felony probation.

Enhanced Penalties

The crime of corporal punishment is a wobbler, even if you have a prior conviction for a domestic violence offense or domestic assault. You may face enhanced penalties for a felony corporal punishment offense if you have a conviction for the following crimes in the last seven years:

  • PC 273.5 — Corporal injury on an intimate partner or spouse
  • PC 243(d) — Assault or battery resulting in severe bodily injury
  • PC 244 — Assault or battery with a caustic chemical
  • PC 244.5 — Assault using a stun gun
  • PC 245— Assault with a deadly weapon
  • PC 243.4 — Sexual battery
  • PC 243(e)— Battery on your spouse

If you have a prior conviction under PC 243(e) for battery on your spouse, the penalties for felony corporal punishment will be enhanced to:

  • Two, three, or four years in a state prison
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000

If you have a prior conviction for assault and battery or corporal injury and you commit a crime of felony corporal injury, the penalties increase to:

  • Two, four, or five years in a state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

When The Victim Suffers Great Bodily Injury

If you inflict severe injuries on your spouse or intimate partner and they suffer severe bodily injuries, you will be subject to a sentencing enhancement according to California PC 12022.7. According to PC 12022.7, a significant bodily injury is any substantial physical injury. According to the PC 12022.7, the enhancement for corporal injury with substantial bodily injury is three, four, or five years imprisonment in a California state prison

Probation Instead of Jail Time

The judge may suspend the jail time or imprisonment and recommend probation instead. There are two types of probation under California law:

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

The typical period for a summary/misdemeanor probation is one to three years. A formal/felony probation lasts longer, usually three to five years. Felony probation may include serving up to one year in county jail. When you commit a corporal injury offense, the judge is likely to recommend felony probation if you are a first-time offender and if there are some mitigating factors.

The court imposes certain probation conditions that defendants must adhere to while on probation. Both summary and formal probation have probation conditions that may include:

  • Payment of fines
  • Payment of restitution to the victim to reimburse them for any reasonable expenses they incur due to your actions
  • Payments to a battered women's This payment does not exceed $5,000
  • The judge may order you to attend a domestic violence class that typically lasts for 52 weeks
  • Completion of community service
  • Caltrans roadside work
  • While you are on probation, you should avoid violating any laws
  • You may also have to comply with a protective or restraining order that prohibits you from contacting the victim. The restraining or protective order may last for up to ten years.
  • If you have a previous conviction involving domestic violence and assault in the past seven years, you may be subject to a minimum jail stay of fifteen days.
  • If you have two or more previous convictions for domestic violence or assault offense, you may be subject to a mandatory minimum of 60 days jail time.

When You Violate The Probation Terms

What happens when you violate the probation terms? If you fail to comply with the necessary probation requirements, the judge will summon you to a probation violation hearing. The following are the possible consequences of the hearing:

  • The judge may decide that you should continue with the probation as before
  • The judge may impose additional, harsher probation conditions
  • The judge may revoke your probation and send you to jail to serve the maximum sentence

Immigration Consequences Of a Corporal Injury Conviction

You may face adverse immigration consequences if you commit the crime of corporal injury on your spouse or intimate partner. Corporal injury is a crime of domestic violence outlined by the federal immigration law. Therefore, violating PC 273.5 could lead to deportation. The crime of corporal injury may also qualify as an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. These two crime categories are inadmissible crimes that could render you inadmissible into the U.S. The consequences of a conviction of an inadmissible crime are:

  • When you leave the U.S., you will have no right to re-enter the country
  • You will lose the possibility or chance of becoming a U.S. citizen
  • You will not have a right to apply for a green card or adjust your immigration status

When a Corporal Injury Causes Great Bodily Injury

If you commit a corporal injury offense and the victim suffers significant bodily injury, the offense will be a serious felony and will earn you a strike according to the Three Strikes law in California. If you have a strike on your record and commit an additional felony offense, you will become a second striker. As a second striker, your sentence will be twice the penalty required by California law. If you have two previous strike offenses on your record and commit an additional crime, you will be subject to 25 years imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Fighting Corporal Injury Charges

Your attorney can help you develop defense strategies to fight your charges. The right defense strategy could lead to a reduction or even dismissal of your charges. During the trial, the prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond doubt that you are guilty of the said offense. Your attorney can identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence and create a good defense for you. The typical defenses are:

Self Defense Or Defending Another Person

You can state that you acted in self-defense or defense of another person. For this defense to apply, it should be evident that:

  • You believed that you or another person was in danger of suffering significant bodily injury.
  • You believed it was essential to use force to defend yourself or the other person against imminent danger.
  • You did not use more force than was necessary to defend yourself or the other person against the imminent danger.

If you and your attorney prove that all the outlined factors are correct, you may not face charges for corporal injury on an intimate partner.

You Did Not Act Intentionally

You can fight corporal injury charges by pointing out that you did not act intentionally. You are only guilty of violating PC 273.5 if you act deliberately or on purpose. Therefore, if you accidentally inflict an injury on your intimate spouse or loved one, you are not guilty of violating PC 273.5, even if the injury occurred during a heated argument.  With the help of an experienced attorney, you may manage to get the prosecutor to dismiss your charges or charge you with a less severe offense like domestic battery PC 243(e)(1).

You Were Falsely Accused

Your intimate partner or spouse may accuse you of corporal injury even if you haven't committed the offense. A person may initiate a false accusation based on jealousy, anger, or a desire to revenge. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can prove that you did not commit the said offense. Your attorney may conduct a thorough background check on your accuser to determine whether he or she has the habit of accusing people falsely. The attorney may also interview the accuser through a private investigator and their contacts to determine if they are telling the truth.

A thorough investigation will reveal whether the accuser has any hidden motive or biases. If you convince the prosecutor that you are a victim of a false accusation, they may drop the charges brought against you or offer you a plea bargain. Of course, if your case proceeds to trial, a jury would have to unanimously find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be found guilty and convicted.

With the help of an experienced attorney, a corporal injury case does not have to result in a conviction.  Depending on the client’s situation, the evidence in the case, collateral consequences and mitigating factors, some cases resolve favorably without a jury trial. Other times a trial may be in your favor, especially if the prosecutor fails to cooperate.

When The Victim Is Unwilling To Testify

It is common in domestic violence cases for a victim to refuse to testify. The victim may even decide to withdraw the charges altogether. However, the prosecutor will not drop the charges against you just because the victim refuses to testify or says he or she does not want you prosecuted.

During a PC 273.5 prosecution, the victim may decide not to press charges against the victim. However, prosecutors often believe that the victim is dropping the charges due to being coerced or threatened by the defendant. The prosecutor may also assume that the defendant is emotionally manipulating the accuser. Therefore, even if the accuser decides to not pursue the charges against you, there is a high chance that the prosecutor will still charge you with the offense. However, it will be more difficult for the prosecutor to prosecute you if the victim is reluctant to bring charges against you. A victim that is not willing to cooperate makes the prosecutor’s job harder. Therefore, there are times when a case is set for trial, only for it to be fully dismissed after the victim fails to cooperate with the DA or prosecutor.  If the evidence against you is weak and the accuser is unwilling to testify, the prosecutor may have no option but to dismiss the charges against you.

What happens if a corporal injury case proceeds to court but the victim refuses to testify in court?

The prosecutor will subpoena the witness. This means that the victim could be forced to appear in court and testify even if they don’t want to. The law requires the prosecutor to personally serve the victim with a subpoena to appear in court. If the accuser still refuses to appear in court, the judge may issue a warrant of arrest against the accuser. However if the victim is not properly served or the prosecutor cannot find the victim to serve them, then no warrant can be issued against the victim.

When It Is Not Possible To Bring The Accuser To Court

At times, it is not possible to bring the victim or a witness to court. For instance, the accuser may have fled the jurisdiction or gone into hiding. In this case, the chances are high that the prosecutor will not continue with the case. A witness statement recorded out of court will be excluded from the case because the law states that the defendant should have an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. Hearsay evidence is not acceptable in court but there are some exceptions.

The law defines hearsay evidence as any out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of whatever it asserts. So, for example, a statement incriminating the defendant made by the victim to another person will likely be inadmissible in court.  There are, however, many exceptions to the hearsay rule, so having a skilled criminal defense attorney is important in order to have the proper evidentiary objections made in court.  If it is not possible to bring the complaining accuser to court, the case might fall apart, resulting in dismissal. After the dismissal of your corporal injury case, you can pursue sealing of your criminal arrest record.

Related Offenses

Several crimes are related to the crime of corporal injury on your spouse or intimate partner. These crimes are often charged alongside or instead of corporal injury. The related offenses are:

Domestic Battery — PC 243(e)(1)

According to California PC 243(e)(1), a domestic battery is the use of force against your intimate partner. Any intentional and unlawful use of force or violence against another person qualifies as battery. A crime becomes a domestic battery if the victim is your intimate partner. An intimate partner may include your current or former spouse, a dating partner, fiancé, or co-parent. The prosecutor must prove the following elements to accuse you of domestic battery:

  • You intentionally or willfully touched another person in an offensive or harmful manner.
  • The person you touched is your intimate partner.
  • When you touched the person, you were not acting in self-defense or in defense of another person.

Unlike corporal injury, which is a wobbler, the crime of domestic battery is a misdemeanor. The penalties for the offense include:

  • A jail time not exceeding one year in a county jail in California
  • A fine that does not exceed $2,000

Instead of sending you to jail, the judge may recommend a summary (misdemeanor) probation. If the judge grants you probation instead of jail time, the judge may impose the following conditions of probation:

  • The judge may require you to complete a batterer's intervention program, also known as a domestic violence program.
  • If a batterer’s intervention program is not available, the judge may recommend any other appropriate counseling program.

The judge may also impose a restraining or protective order against you to ensure that you do not harass, threaten, or harm the victim.

Disturbing The Peace — PC 415

There are several ways that you can disturb the peace and violate PC 415:

  • Fighting unlawfully in a public place
  • Disturbing another person with loud noises
  • Using offensive words in public

The California PC 415(1) outlines the crime of unlawful fighting in a public place. If you fight your intimate partner in a public place, you may face charges under PC 415(1) alongside corporal injury charges. The prosecutor must prove the following to accuse you of unlawful fighting in a public place:

  • You intentionally and unlawfully fought another person or challenged another person to a fight.
  • You challenged the person in a public place.

The prosecutor may charge the crime of disturbing the peace as either an infraction or a misdemeanor. The typical consequences for the offense include:

  • A jail time of not more than 90 days in a county jail in California
  • A fine that does not exceed $400
  • The court may also impose both jail time and fine

You can use several defenses to fight corporal injury charges:

  • You did not have a criminal intent
  • Your conduct was constitutionally protected
  • You were falsely accused
  • You acted in self-defense or defense of another person

Elder Abuse – PC 368

You may face charges under PC 368 if you impose physical or emotional abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect on an elder above 65 years. The offense of elder abuse could attract felony or misdemeanor charges. The penalties for misdemeanor elder abuse are:

  • A jail time not exceeding one year
  • A fine not exceeding $6,000
  • Paying restitution to the victim

If you commit the crime of felony elder abuse, the consequences include:

  • Imprisonment of not more than four years in a state prison in California
  • A fine not exceeding $10,00
  • Paying restitution to the victim

A defendant may face an additional seven years in prison if the defendant suffers great bodily injury. 

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

The penalties of corporal injury offense could be devastating, especially if the prosecutor charges you with felony corporal abuse. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you create a strong defense to fight your charges. For reliable legal representation in Pasadena, CA, you can count on Attorney Ann Gottesman. Contact Ann at 626-710-4021 and speak to her directly about your case.