Corporal Injury To Spouse under California Penal Code Section 273.5(a):

When police show up to your door after a neighbor or spouse calls 911, you may not know it at the time, but that officer already has decided that if either party has any injury, and at least one party admits to having committed an assault or being the victim of such, someone will be arrested.  Even if the injury is small, such as redness or a scratch, and even if the injured spouse begs and pleads for the officer not to arrest the other spouse, most officers will still go forward with the arrest and the arrested spouse will be taken to jail.  Bail will often be presumed at fifty thousand dollars.  Knowing your rights, which include the right NOT to talk to the police, is very important at such times when an arrest seems imminent.

Section 273.5(a) of the California Penal Code states that it’s illegal for a person to injure a spouse, cohabitant (couples who live together), fiance, or parent of common child.  Injuring one of these described persons is also referred to as domestic abuse, domestic violence and corporal injury to a spouse.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove for an Accused to be Convicted of Committing Corporal Injury to a Spouse:

To prove that the accused committed the crime of inflicting injury on a spouse, cohabitant or parent of the accused’s child, in violation of Penal Code section 273.5(a), a prosecutor must prove all of the following elements of the crime:

  1. That the accused willfully inflicted a physical injury on his or her current or former spouse, cohabitant, fiancé, or parent of the accused’s child.  A former or current significant other with whom the accused was or is in a dating relationship is also included as one of the specified victims in this statute.  However a roommate with whom you have never had any dating relationship with, would not be one of the victims specified in Penal Code 273.5(a).
  2. An injury resulted in a traumatic condition.
    A traumatic condition refers to an external or internal wound or injury that was caused by physical force, no matter whether that injury or wound is minor or serious, including but not limited to an injury that resulted from the accused suffocating or strangling the victim.

Defenses to the Charge of Corporal Injury to a Spouse:

Every person has the right to defend themselves if faced with an immediate threat of harm or violence.  Many times in domestic violence cases one spouse accuses the other of initiating the physical altercation, causing the other spouse or partner to feel the need to protect themselves with appropriate force.   The right of self defense can be a powerful defense to the charge of corporal injury or domestic violence. 
Although many claims of spousal battery or corporal injury are valid and serious, too often, a jilted lover or spouse will make false accusations, resulting in criminal charges being filed against an innocent spouse.   In such cases it is very important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Sometimes a criminal defense lawyer can convince the prosecutor or District Attorney that his or her client is not guilty of the offense. Other times the defendant has to bring his case to a jury in order to find justice.

Related Criminal Offenses Include:
1. PC Section 242: Assault 
2. PC Section 240: Battery
3. PC Section 243(e)(1): Domestic Battery 
4. Pc Section 243(d): Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury

Penalties if Convicted of PC Section 273.5(a), Corporal Injury to a Spouse:

Since the crime of domestic violence or corporal injury to a spouse can be filed and prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, it is referred to as a “wobbler”.  The prosecutor will consider the amount of force used and the significance of the injury to the victim, as well as the defendant’s prior criminal record when determining whether to proceed with misdemeanor or felony charges.  If filed as a felony, an accused faces a maximum of 4 years in prison (2, 3 or 4 years) plus 5 more years consecutive (total of 9 years) if there was great bodily injury (“GBI”).  Such a conviction would be considered a “strike” because it would be a violent felony under the Three Strikes Law.  
If the accused has a minimal or no prior criminal record and the injury is minor, the prosecutor may only proceed with misdemeanor charges, in which case the maximum sentence would be up to one year in the county jail. Fines and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling would also be required.
Many times the District Attorney files charges of domestic violence and corporal injury to a spouse against a defendant when the evidence is weak, or when it is obvious that the defendant has a legitimate affirmative defense.  Unfortunately, the DA always errs on the side of caution and files charges that upon closer inspection should not be filed, because politically, there is a lot of community pressure on the prosecuting agency to heavily prosecute these types of crimes. 

If you or a loved one is facing charges of domestic violence or corporal injury to a spouse or partner, contact Pasadena Criminal lawyer Ann Gottesman at 626-710-4021 for a FREE consultation.  Ann will listen to your side of the story and develop the best possible defense for your case.