California law provides severe penalties for any person that inflicts a corporal injury to their current or former spouse. The offense is generally a wobbler. It means that the district attorney can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor based on the elements of the crime and the offender’s criminal history. Causing a corporal injury to your spouse is punishable by a lengthy prison time and hefty fines for those found guilty. But you can fight your charges in court to escape a conviction if you partner with a skilled criminal lawyer. If you face these charges in Pasadena, talk to us at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Our team of competent criminal defense attorneys will prepare a solid defense against your charges to compel the court to reduce or drop them.
Legal Meaning of Corporate Injury to a Spouse
Corporal injury to a close partner or domestic abuse is a domestic violence offense meted against a partner. It involves causing a corporal injury to a person you have or had a close relationship with, including a current or former intimate partner. Domestic violence is generally a severe offense in California, punishable by lengthy prison or jail time and hefty penalties. Thus, it is advisable to think of working with a competent criminal defense attorney if you face charges for causing a corporal injury to your intimate partner. A skilled attorney will prepare a solid defense against your charges and help you avoid a conviction and its serious consequences.
The law against causing a corporal injury to one’s spouse is on California Penal Code 273.5. The statute protects former and current cohabitants, spouses, dating partners, or co-parents against suffering severe physical injuries at the hands of their current or former partners. If that happens, the victim of abuse can seek legal help for their abuser to face severe charges and grave consequences for their actions.
When you face arrest under this statute, the prosecutor will open charges against you in a criminal court where you stand trial. During this trial, you are given a chance to defend yourself against the charges. The court allows the prosecutor to prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. They are:
- That you willfully caused bodily damage to another
- The victim of this offense was your former or current intimate partner
- The physical harm you inflicted on the victim resulted in trauma
Let us elaborate on this section further to ensure that you understand these elements even better:
A Willful Act
This statute requires you (the defendant) to have acted willfully, causing your intimate partner a corporal injury. You will be guilty of acting willfully if you intentionally caused bodily harm to your spouse. Note that a willful act does not mean you planned to violate the law.
Example: Nelson does not take well the news that Linda intends to sue him for child support. After their separation three years ago, Nelson has never bothered to send child support money for their son. Out of anger, Nelson drives to Linda’s workplace. He angrily grabs her, causing her to lose balance and fall on an office chair. Linda incurs injuries on her right arm and face.
Nelson’s intention was not to break the law, but he acted willfully in causing Linda’s physical injuries. Since Linda is the other parent of Nelson’s child, Nelson will be guilty under this statute.
A Traumatic Condition
The corporal injury you inflict to your spouse, under this law, will result in a traumatic situation. A traumatic condition is any physical harm or wound that results from the direct use of bodily force. It can be gentle or severe, based on the degree of energy utilized by the defendant. Here are some physical injuries that can be considered traumatic and could apply in this situation:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Injuries resulting from strangulation/suffocation
The trauma must be a natural effect of the force used by the defendant. The court will expect the prosecutor to prove that your acts caused your victim to incur a traumatic condition.
The condition is legally considered a direct result of a bodily injury when it meets the following requirements:
- It is a genuine and likely result of a bodily injury
- A particular physical injury is a substantial and direct reason for the trauma
- The traumatic condition wouldn’t be experienced without an injury
Example: Nate and Jane have been arguing a lot lately. Nate has not been able to find a job, and Jane is becoming impatient. One evening, their argument escalates. Nate is not ready to lose Jane, so he chooses to walk out and allow them time to calm down. Unfortunately, he slides and falls, dislocating his left ankle.
In this case, Jane is not responsible for Nate’s injuries. Even though they were arguing, Nate’s traumatic condition resulted from the fall as he walked out and not from the argument.
As previously mentioned, corporal injury to your spouse is a form of domestic violence meted against a partner. According to California laws, a close partner can be one of these people. A current or previous:
- Domestic partner
- A cohabitant or live-in girl/boyfriend
- The other parent of your child
- A person you have been in a deep intimate relationship with
It could be a little tricky for people who have been living together (cohabitants). Therefore, the law provides specific factors as a guide to demonstrate that indeed you were close partners. Some of these factors are:
- That you were engaged in sexual relations when living in the same place
- You shared earnings or expenditures
- You jointly used or owned properties
- You carried yourselves as if in a deep or intimate relationship
- Your relationship has some form of continuity. For instance, you have a child or children together
- The length of time you have been in that relationship
Note that California law does not make it a crime for one person to live or cohabit with more partners than one at the same period. The fact that you are in a deep relationship with another person will not absolve you of domestic abuse charges on another. Therefore, you cannot use that as a defense against charges under this statute.
Possible Punishment for Sentencing Under Penal Code 273.5
California Penal Code 273.5 is a wobbler. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony, based on the following:
- The elements of the case
- Your criminal background
A slightly lenient misdemeanor charge could attract less severe penalties upon conviction. You are likely to face a felony charge under this law if these elements are true:
- You inflicted severe bodily injuries on your intimate partner
- You have a background of cases relating to domestic abuse or any other aggressive behavior
If you face misdemeanor charges for causing a corporal injury to your spouse, you will possibly receive these penalties after a conviction:
- Jail time for a period not exceeding one year
- A maximum fine of $6,000
In the place of jail time, the judge could decide to place you on summary probation. In that case, you will serve part of or the entire sentence out of incarceration. However, you will have to abide by specific probation conditions.
If you face felony charges under this law, you will probably receive the following penalties after conviction:
- Between two and four years of prison time
- A court fine of not more than $6,000
Again, the judge might choose to send you on formal probation to serve all or part of your prison sentence. You will be under the supervision of a probation officer, who will ensure that you are abiding by all the probation conditions set by the judge.
Note that not all offenders qualify for probation. The judge considers several factors, including your criminal history and seriousness of the offense, to decide whether or not to place you on probation.
Penalties in Case of Prior Convictions
Sometimes California trial court judges impose a more severe penalty on offenders with previous convictions. Therefore, your sentence for causing a corporal injury to your spouse might become more severe if you have a criminal record.
California Penal Code 273.5 is still a wobbler even for defendants with a previous sentence for domestic abuse or assault in their criminal history. However, your punishment for the felony conviction could be more if you have a sentence within seven years for any of these crimes:
- Corporal injury to a close partner — Penal Code 273.5
- Battery/assault causing severe physical injury, as under PC 243(d)
- Battery/assault by a dangerous chemical as under PC 244
- Sexual battery as under PC 243.4
- Assault by a dangerous weapon as under PC 245
- Assault by a stun gun, as under PC 244.5
- Battery on a close partner as under the state’s Penal Code 243(e)
Penalties if You Have a Previous Conviction for Battering Your Spouse
You will probably receive a felony conviction for causing a corporal injury to your spouse if you have a previous conviction for battering your spouse under Penal Code 243(e). In that case, your penalties will go up to:
- Two(2), three(3), or four(4) years in prison
- Fines not exceeding $10,000
If there is a previous conviction for any of the remaining crimes listed above in your criminal record, except battering your spouse, your felony penalties will go up to:
- Two(2), four(4), or five(5)e years in prison
- A court fine of not more than $10,000
Penalty Enhancement for Great Injury
If the victim incurred a great physical injury due to your actions, you would possibly receive a penalty enhancement under the state’s sentence enhancement law under Penal Code 12022.7.
A great physical/bodily injury refers to any substantial physical injury.
A penalty enhancement adds additional and successive penalties to your penalties. You will possibly receive between three and five years of prison time in this case.
California trial court judges have complete discretion in sending defendants on probation instead of or as part of jail/prison sentences. Your probation can be a felony or misdemeanor based on the underlying charge.
Misdemeanor probations run for a maximum of three years, while felony probation could go for not more than five years. If the judge sends you on felony probation, he/she cou;ld require you to serve a minimum of one year of your sentence in jail and then the remaining sentence under the supervision of a probation officer. Felony probations are usually given to first-time offenders.
When placed on probation, the judge sets specific probation terms that you’ll abide by during the probation term. The most likely of these are:
- Payments for all court fines
- Pay restitution to your victim to enable him/her to access essential services like counseling and medical care.
- Pay a specified amount to battered women's shelters.
- Compulsory attendance of domestic violence classes
- Completing community service
- Abiding by the law and not committing another crime while out on probation
- Complying to a specific protective/restraining order
Note that violating any of the given probation conditions is a serious offense. The judge summons you to court for a violation hearing when that happens. After analyzing the situation and listening to your reason for probation violation, the court makes one of these three decisions:
- Continue your probation as it is
- Impose fresh and harsher probation conditions
- Revoke our probation, then sentence you to county jail or state prison for the maximum period provided by the law
Other Effects of a Sentence Under the Penal Code 273.5
Causing your partner to incur a corporal injury will likely result in serious immigration consequences. The crime is a severe violence-related offense under national immigration laws. Therefore, it is listed as a deportable crime. Additionally, all domestic violence-related crimes are crimes of moral turpitude. California Penal Code 273.5 is an aggravated felony if it results in significant bodily injury. For all these reasons, Causing a corporal injury to your spouse will cause a non-immigrant to face deportation or be marked as inadmissible to the U.S.
Therefore, if you face felony charges under this offense, you are likely to:
- Be denied the privilege to enter the U.S after leaving
- Have zero chance of becoming a U.S citizen
- Have no privilege of applying for a green card or even adjusting your status from an illegal to a legal immigrant
Additionally, California Penal Code 273.5 can be a strike if it results in a great physical injury on the victim. The three-strikes law in California imposes more severe penalties on serious felonies for offenders with a prior conviction. Bodily injury to a close partner causing significant physical injury is a grave felony offense and a strike under this law. It means that if there is a previous sentence of a strike in your criminal history, the second one will make you a second striker. That would make your sentence two times longer than the one required by the law. If you commit a third strike, you will likely receive 25-years to life imprisonment upon conviction.
Possible Legal Defenses Against California Penal Code 273.5 Charges
A sentence for causing a corporal injury to your spouse will likely impact various aspects of your life. Other than the criminal consequences of a sentence, you will be left with a damaging criminal record that could change the way people treat you in various capacities. For instance, your family could change the way they relate to you. Potential employers could treat you with suspicion, and that could make it hard for you to find suitable employment.
You must fight your charges in court to escape a conviction and all its consequences. Fortunately, the law permits the use of various legal strategies in defense, which a competent criminal defense lawyer can use to change the outcome of your situation. Some of these strategies are:
Self-Defense/Defense for Another
Self-defense is commonly used as a defense technique for violence-related offenses in California. It is believed that people can act violently when defending themselves or others. If that happened in your case, your lawyer could use this defense to compel the court to reduce or drop your charges.
However, your lawyer must convince the court that you needed to act violently under the circumstances to defend you or someone else against impending danger. In the absence of impending danger, your defense will not be acceptable in court.
Additionally, your attorney must convince the jury that your actions were necessary at the time to defend you or someone else against the danger. For instance, you must have been forced by circumstances to push your spouse out of the way to avoid a deadly confrontation or to protect your children against his/her rage.
Lastly, you must not have used more physical force than required to defend yourself or someone else against the danger.
If your attorney proves the three factors satisfactorily, then you won’t be guilty of causing a corporal injury to your partner.
Lack of Willfulness
You must have behaved willfully to be culpable under this statute. A willful act is done willingly, deliberately, or on purpose. If not, it will not count as domestic abuse.
Accidents happen all the time. People injure others without meaning to. It could even happen in the heat of anger. Accidental injuries in marriage or serious relationships do not count as spousal abuse.
However, you must convince the court that your actions were merely accidental and not deliberate.
Example: Sammy angrily leaves his house during a fierce fight with his girlfriend. But he immediately realizes how cold it is outside. He angrily pushes the door open without realizing that his girlfriend is right behind the door with a jacket in her hands. Unfortunately, she is struck by the door, fracturing her head.
In this situation, Sammy’s actions might have resulted in a corporal injury to his girlfriend, but his actions were merely accidental and not deliberate. Therefore, Sammy is not guilty under Penal Code 273.5.
Cases regarding domestic violence are very sensitive. The police do not conduct an in-depth investigation into the matter before making an arrest. That makes it easy for people to accuse others falsely for reasons like vengeance or jealousy.
If you face charges under this statute for a crime you didn’t commit, your attorney will find compelling proof to convince the court of your innocence. It could be that a current or former intimate partner wants revenge because of what you did or failed to do. A competent attorney will call in witnesses and prepare witness reports and any other compelling proof to demonstrate your innocence in court.
Communication between you and the supposed victim could reveal the kind of relationship you have/had and the motive. Therefore, a competent attorney will subpoena their emails, text messages, or even social media accounts to establish the reason. A look into the victim’s background could also tell the kind of person he/she is.
Note that in cases like these, the court will not require the defendant to provide the names of the actual perpetrator if, indeed, the victim was assaulted or battered by another person. The court will dismiss your charges once the jury is convinced of your innocence.
Find a Reliable Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Are you facing criminal charges for causing a corporal injury to your spouse in Pasadena, CA?
It helps to hire a qualified criminal lawyer. You need proper legal guidance, advice, and a solid defense to fight your charges in court to avoid a conviction. You will also need a competent person working on your case and ensuring that you meet all court deadlines. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have a strong team of highly experienced attorneys that will be willing to walk you through the legal process. Call us at 626-628-0564, and let us work together towards a favorable outcome of your situation.