California Penal Code Elements for Corporal Injury on a Spouse
California Penal Code 273.5 makes it a crime for any person to willfully inflict corporal injury on an intimate partner that results in a traumatic condition. This crime is also commonly referred to as domestic violence, domestic abuse, domestic battery, or spousal abuse.
Definitions to Better Understand Corporal Injury on a Spouse
To better understand the crime of corporal injury, there are some terms to define. A person acts willfully when he or she does something intentionally or on purpose.
Corporal injury refers to any actual physical injury, regardless of whether it is a serious or minor injury.
A traumatic condition is any wound or other bodily injury caused by the direct application of physical force. The injury can be serious or minor.
An intimate partner can include a current or former spouse, co-parent, domestic partner, cohabitant, current or former fiancé, or dating partner.
Charging Corporal Injury on a Spouse - What is a “Wobbler” Offense?
Corporal injury is a “wobbler” offense, which means prosecutors can decide whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. To determine whether to charge a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor will look to a number of factors, including the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, and the injuries sustained by the victim.
Misdemeanor Conviction Penalties
If the crime is charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $6,000.
Felony Conviction Penalties
If the crime is charged as a felony, it is punishable by up to four years in state prison and/or a fine up to $6,000.
Additionally, if convicted of a felony domestic violence charge, there are additional consequences, which include a protective (restraining) order, a lifetime loss of the right to own a firearm, and the potential loss of a professional license.
Additionally, any felony domestic abuse conviction that involves corporal injury does count under California’s three strikes law.
Prior Convictions and Acts of Child Abuse and/or Domestic Violence
If the defendant was previously convicted within the last seven years of another domestic or violent crime (i.e. assault/battery resulting in serious bodily injury, domestic violence, sexual battery, etc.) the number of years that a defendant is sentenced to can increase, or be enhanced.
Possible Probation Sentence
In cases where the harm to the intimate partner is less serious, it is possible for a judge to sentence a defendant to probation, either misdemeanor or felony probation. However, this is entirely in the judge’s discretion and is dependent on several circumstances, including the severity of any injuries.
When or if a defendant is sentenced to probation, there may be other conditions placed upon the defendant, such as a minimal 15-20 day jail sentence prior to beginning probation, a protective order, restitution owed to the victim, and a mandatory domestic violence class lasting one year. The judge can also order random drug testing.
Legal Defenses to Corporal Injury on a Spouse
Though corporal injury of a spouse (domestic violence) is a serious crime, there are multiple common legal defenses to fight the charge. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to advise someone facing these charges on all their options. Some defenses include:
· The defendant acted in self defense or defense of another
· The defendant was falsely accused
· The injury to the alleged victim was accidental
Can a Victim “Drop” Charges?
Often the victim in domestic violence cases will want to “drop” charges. That does not automatically mean the prosecutor will dismiss the case. Filing charges and dismissing charges is always in the hands of the prosecutor.
However, if the victim is uncooperative, that is one factor that can be considered when trying to work out a plea deal with the prosecutor. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise someone in this situation and help obtain the best outcome possible.