Violence is everywhere, but when it happens in the confines of a marriage or intimate relationship, California laws against domestic violence will protect the victims and ensure that they get the justice they deserve. When a person is facing charges for domestic violence in the state, several sections of the domestic violence law may apply. The choice of law the prosecutor makes depends on the severity of the defendant’s actions and the harm suffered by the victim.
Laws against corporal injury on an intimate partner are apparent and will apply in cases where the victim suffers any type of injury, whether severe or minor. The punishment could be severe and may include several years behind bars and hefty fines. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we offer legal advice, guidance, and representation to people facing domestic violence charges. We can help ensure that you are not receiving a heftier punishment than you deserve.
Legal Meaning of California Corporal Injury to a Spouse
Corporal Injury to a spouse is a form of domestic violence that goes beyond the use of unnecessary force against a person you are in an intimate relationship with. When a person willfully inflicts corporal injury on another, it means that the other person has suffered physical injury as a result. Any type of injury matters in this case, and could be either minor or severe. California laws against corporal injury on an intimate person are under Section 273.5 of the State Penal Code. According to that section of the act, inflicting corporal injury on a person you are in an intimate relationship with is illegal if that injury results in a traumatic condition.
To understand this law better, let us look at the elements of the crime, which the prosecutor must prove in court for the defendant to be found guilty of the offense:
- That the defendant willfully inflicted physical injury on the victim
- That the defendant and the victim were in an intimate relationship at that time or the past
- That the bodily harm inflicted on the victim resulted in a traumatic condition
From the elements of this crime, we have specific terms and concepts that need further explanation to understand when this law can be applied:
Willfully: A defendant is said to have acted willfully if they did something intentionally. Note that acting intentionally does not mean that the person had the intention of breaking the law. If, for instance, a person, out of anger, grabs another person's arm and ends up dislocating their elbow. This person may not have wanted to dislocate the other person's elbow, but he/she had acted willfully. If the two are in an intimate relationship, or they are former marriage partners, the defendant could face charges for corporal injury to a spouse.
Traumatic condition: As used in this case, the traumatic condition will refer to any bodily injury or wound that resulted from the direct use of physical strength by the defendant. Note that the condition doesn’t have to be dangerous as the law uses both minor and severe injuries. Some of the injuries the law considers as traumatic conditions to convict offenders of corporal harm to a spouse include:
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Injury resulting from strangulation or suffocation
Note that the traumatic situation must have been produced directly from the physical force. The victim will be required by the court to prove that it was the offender’s actions that caused him/her to suffer the traumatic condition. The traumatic situation will be thought to be a direct result of the injury if:
- It was a normal and a likely consequence of the injury
- The injury was the immediate and considerable reason for the condition
- If the condition could not have occurred without that injury
Intimate partner: Corporal injury on an intimate person refers to an injury to a person the defendant is in a close relationship with. This law has a list of people it considers as intimate partners, and they include:
- A former or current spouse
- A previous or current legal domestic partner
- An old or current live-in girlfriend or boyfriend. It could also be a cohabitant
- A former or current fiancé (e)
- A mother/father of the offender’s child
- A person, the offender, has/had a serious courting relationship with
When it comes to cohabiting partners, there are factors that the court will use to determine whether or not the two are living together. These are, for instance:
- The two are in a sexual relationship while living in the same house
- The two share their expenses and income
- The two own or use their properties jointly
- The two appear to be in a good relationship while out there
- They have continuity in their relationship
- They have been in a relationship for a long time
Note that domestic violence laws in California accept that a person could cohabit with multiple partners at a go.
Penalties for California Corporal Injury to a Spouse
The crime of corporal injury to a partner is a wobbler in the state of California. What this means is that the offender can face either a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision of the court will be based on the seriousness of the injuries the victim sustained and the judge. To decide whether to convict the offender with a felony or misdemeanor, the prosecutor will consider the following:
- The details of their case
- The offender’s criminal record
An offender is likely to get a felony conviction if:
- The injuries sustained by the victim were severe
- There is a record of past domestic violence or aggressiveness on the part of the defendant
If you are charged with a misdemeanor for willfully inflicting corporal injuries on your spouse, here are some of the penalties you are likely to face:
- A maximum of one year in jail
- Fines of not more than $6,000
The judge might decide to place the defendant on misdemeanor probation as an alternative to sending him/her to jail.
If, on the other hand, you are sentenced to a felony offense, here are some of the penalties you might get:
- Two, three or four years of imprisonment
- A maximum fine of $6,000
Depending on the nature of the offense, the judge might decide to place the defendant on felony probation as an alternative to sending him/her to prison.
California Corporal Injury to a Spouse with Previous Convictions
If the offender has prior convictions of the same offense, assault, or domestic violence, the current offense could be a wobbler. It means that he/she could be convicted with a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties for a misdemeanor offense remain the same as listed above. However, punishments for a felony conviction will be increased. Note that a previous conviction is said to have occurred within seven years of the current offense. An enhanced conviction could result from any of the following:
- A previous sentence of corporal injury to a spouse, as provided under Section 273.5
- An earlier conviction of battery/assault leading to serious physical injury, as provided in Section 243(d)
- A previous conviction of battery/assault by use of caustic material, as provided under Section 244
- A prior sentence of assault by use of a gun, as provided under Section 244.5
- A previous conviction of assault by use of a dangerous weapon, as provided under Section 245
- A previous conviction of sexual battery, as provided under Section 243.4
- A prior sentence of battery on a partner, as provided under Section 243(e)
For the enhanced sentence with a prior sentence on battery on a partner, the offender is likely to face the following penalties:
- Two, three or four years of imprisonment
- A maximum fine of $10,000
If, on the other hand, the previous conviction was any of the crimes listed above except for battery on an intimate partner, the sentence might be enhanced to:
- Two, four or five years of imprisonment
- A maximum fine of $10,000
California Corporal Injury to a Spouse with Serious Bodily Injury
Corporal Injury to a spouse resulting in significant physical injury also calls for sentence enhancement under California laws. It is, in fact, a separate offense, provided under Section 12022.7 of the California Laws. A person, who, by force, willfully causes severe injuries on their intimate partner, will be charged with significant physical injury as a sentence enhancement under this law.
As used under Section 12022.7, significant physical/bodily injury refers to any substantial or significant physical harm that a person may sustain in the hands of another. Because of the nature of the resulting traumatic condition, the offender will face more penalties in addition to those he/she is likely to face for a standard corporal injury offense. The additional penalties the enhanced sentence is expected to carry include 3, 4, or five years more to the typical conviction.
Probation for California Corporal Injury to a Spouse
As mentioned above, one of the likely sentences a judge can give a person convicted under Section 273.5 of California laws is sending them to probation. In most cases, California judges have total discretion of suspending the imposition of domestic violence sentences to place the defendant on probation instead. In the state, probation can either be felony or misdemeanor, depending on the court's verdict.
California misdemeanor probation: It is a type of probation that usually takes between one to three years. A defendant can only get misdemeanor probation if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor offense.
California felony probation: It is the type of California probation that lasts for a much longer time, mostly between three and five years. Felony probation may or may not include serving some time in jail before the court allows you to serve the remaining term out of jail. Defendants who get this type of probation are those who have committed a felony offense for the first time. Others are those whose cases have noteworthy mitigating factors.
California probation is usually given with a set of requirements that the defendant must adhere to for the court to allow them to serve part or all of their jail term as free people. Both felony and misdemeanor probation comes with conditions. Some of these conditions include:
- The requirement to pay all court fines in full
- Obligation to pay restitution to the injured person. the defendant may also be required to compensate the injured for medical and counseling expenses they could have incurred as a result of the injury
- Payment of a maximum of $5,000 if the victim is a woman, to cater to the abused women's shelter
- Mandatory attendance of domestic violence program for at least 52 weeks
- Completion of California community work or participation in a Caltrans roadside project
- The court will expect the defendant not to violate any law while out on probation
- He/she will be expected to comply with all the restraining or protective orders that discourage any connection between them and the injured. The restraining orders could go on or up to 10 years
In addition to that, the defendant may get a minimum jail term as follows:
- Incarceration for 15 days if they had a previous conviction of any offense related to domestic violence or assault in the last seven years
- Imprisonment for two months if the offender has two or more such prior convictions as mentioned above
Violation of Probation Conditions
Sometimes violation conditions are stringent, and the defendant may find it challenging to adhere to all of them. However, violation of probation conditions comes with severe consequences. If an offender fails to act by all the set terms, the judge will call for a hearing for a probation violation. If the court proves that the defendant indeed violated their probation conditions, the judge could take any of the following actions:
- Forget about the violation and allow the defendant to continue with the probation as nothing happened
- Impose new conditions. These are usually harsher
- Revoke the probation, then send the offender to prison or jail to serve the maximum time the sentence calls for.
Does Violating California Legal Code 273.5 Have Any Immigration Consequences?
The crime of corporal harm on a partner falls under the category of domestic violence in Federal Immigration laws. What this means is that it is an offense that has significant consequences on immigration. What this means is that if you are a legal immigrant, you could face deportation if found guilty of this offense.
In other circumstances, this is also a crime of moral turpitude or a serious felony. It makes the offense an inadmissible crime in the country. The consequences of all unacceptable crimes in the state of California are any of the following:
- The offender will not be granted the right to enter the U.S after deportation
- There will be no possibility for the offender to become a citizen of the United States
- The defendant will not have any right to request a modification of their status or a green card in the country. It means that they can never change their status from an illegal immigrant to legal.
Section 273.5 of California Law is a Strike!
Using force against an intimate partner to the point of causing them bodily harm is a strike crime in the state of California. The reason for this is because the crime is an aggravated felony, and it satisfies the conditions provided under the state's Three Strikes law.
A person that is sentenced to a heightened felony offense and is later on accused of any other type of felony offense is considered as a second striker under the same law. Any striker faces penalties that are twice longer than the actual punishment for the same crime as provided under the law. If the offender has two previous strike offenses, any felony offense that comes after will result in a conviction of between twenty-five years of imprisonment or life in prison.
Possible Legal Defenses to Corporal Injury to an Intimate Partner
From what has been provided in this article, it is apparent that inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner is a severe offense in the state of California. The kinds of penalties listed above could be more depending on the severity of the crime and the judge. In most cases and any serious offense, there is always a chance that a person will be accused of an offense they have not committed. When this happens, there is a possibility of facing severe consequences unless with a proper legal defense.
Fortunately, California laws allow criminal defendants to hire attorneys who will not only guide them through the legal process but also represent them during the trial. The best part is that there are several legal defenses that a competent criminal defense attorney can use to defend you against Legal Code 273.5 of California laws. The results could either be a reduced sentence or a dismissal of your charges. Some of these include:
That the offender acted in defense of self or another person
Self-defense is a widely-used defense against several criminal offenses. It is because the law allows a person to use more force than necessary if they have a reason to believe that their life or the life of another person is in immediate danger. The court will, however, want to hear why you reasonably thought that your life or the life of another person was in danger. There must also be proof that the force you used was needed to defend you or the other person against that threat. If your attorney can prove that self-defense was the only way out of your situation, the court may acquit you of the charges.
The act was not willful
Remember that willfulness is one of the essential elements of this offense. If you did not act willfully and you can prove it to the court, you may not be found guilty of the crime. Remember that you may have done what you did intentionally, but with no intention of causing the other person an injury. If that is the case, and the prosecutor can prove that your actions were willful, you could be convicted of the offense. However, in cases of accidental injuries, even those that occur after an intense argument, you might be able to prove your innocence during trial.
If this defense is used successfully, the judge might acquit you of the charges or reduce them to more lenient charges, like a domestic battery.
It was a false accusation
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to be accused of corporal injury falsely. The reason for this is because of the seriousness in which California police take cases of domestic violence. One partner may accuse another falsely out of their desire to seek revenge, anger, or even jealousy. Such baseless accusations are the reason why so many innocent people are in prison today. If you are being accused falsely, allow your attorney to do an in-depth investigation into the matter. So much evidence could be found if he/she subpoenas the victim/s text messages, emails, and also their social media accounts. Your attorney could also interview the victim's friends, family, or colleagues.
If it is true that the victim was making a false allegation, the defendant’s charges could be reduced to less-serious charges or dropped via a plea bargain.
The good thing about working with a competent criminal defense attorney is that he/she can always obtain a favorable solution from a trial. What this means is that you do not have to face all the penalties that have been provided by the law for the offense.
Find a San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm
Laws against any form of domestic violence in the state of California are very stringent. It can even get worse if the violence has resulted in physical injury, however minor it could be. A conviction could significantly affect several aspects of your life, including social and professional life. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have a dedicated team of competent attorneys whose defense you can count on. With our excellent skills and experience, we could have the court reduce your charges or drop them altogether. Call us at 408-622-0204 if you are in San Jose, CA, and let us change the results of your case.