Corporal Injury Charges in California
- Penal Code §273.5 -
Corporal Injury - PC 273.5
Corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant is probably the second most common domestic violence charge in California, behind domestic battery. However, corporal injury is more severe than domestic battery.
Not only will a conviction for corporal injury prevent you from owning a firearm, but it can also land you behind bars for years under some circumstances.
1. What is corporal injury?
Corporal injury is a crime pursuant to penal code section 273.5. A person is guilty of corporal injury when they willfully inflict an injury that results in a traumatic condition on any of the following people:
A spouse or former spouse,
A cohabitant or former cohabitant,
A person who is the parent of the offender’s child,
A fiancé or former fiancé, or
A person with whom the offender currently has, or previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.
It is not necessary that the offender and the victim hold themselves out as spouses to be considered “cohabitants”.
“Cohabitants” are two unrelated persons living together for a significant period of time, which results in some permanency to the relationship. In determining whether the parties were cohabitants, a jury will consider factors such as:
Whether the parties engaged in sexual relations
If the parties shared income and expenses
The joint use or ownership of the property
The lengthy and continuity of the relationship
2. What are the elements of corporal injury?
Before someone can be found guilty of corporal injury, the prosecutor must prove all of the essential components of the crime. The essential components of a crime are referred to as “elements” of the crime.
The prosecutor – usually, the district attorney or city attorney in Orange County cases – is responsible for proving all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If even a single juror is left with a reasonable doubt about the commission of one of the elements, then the jury cannot find the defendant guilty.
To find a defendant guilty of corporal injury, the prosecutor must prove:
The defendant willfully inflicted a physical injury on the victim,
The injury inflicted on the victim resulted in a traumatic condition,
The defendant was not acting in self-defense when inflicting the injury, AND
The victim was one of the following:
The defendant’s spouse or former spouse,
The defendant’s fiancé or former fiancé,
The parent of the defendant’s child,
A cohabitant or former cohabitant of the defendant,
Some who has or previously had a dating or engagement relationship with the defendant.
Traumatic Condition – A “traumatic condition” is a wound or other bodily injury cause by the direct application of physical force. The extent of the injury is irrelevant, it can be of minor or serious nature. Moreover, the injury can be internal or external.
Examples of a traumatic condition include:
Redness to the skin
Result of an Injury – As indicated in Element 2 above, the traumatic condition must be the result of the injury. A traumatic condition is considered the result of an injury when:
The traumatic condition is the natural and probable consequence of the injury,
The injury was a direct and substantial factor in causing the traumatic condition, AND
The condition would not have happened without the injury.
It is NOT a defense that you didn’t know that the injury would result in a traumatic condition. The test is whether a reasonable person would know that the traumatic condition is likely to result if nothing intervenes.
3. What are the penalties for corporal injury?
Corporal injury is a “wobbler” offense, which means that the prosecutor can choose whether to file the charge as a misdemeanor or a felony. In California, a misdemeanor is a mid-level crime while a felony is the most serious level of offense.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Corporal Injury –
If the charge is filed as a misdemeanor offense, then the maximum penalty for corporal injury is:
Up to one year in County Jail,
A fine up to $6,000, OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
Penalties for Felony Corporal Injury –
If the charge is filed as a felony offense, then the maximum penalty for corporal injury is:
Either 2, 3, or 4 years in State Prison,
A fine up to $6,000, OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
The trial judge is responsible for choosing whether to enforce the low-term, mid-term, or high-term of imprisonment. However, a judge may NOT order the 4-year high-term, unless there are aggravating circumstances to the crime that justify imposing the longer sentence.
Probation for Corporal Injury –
A person found guilty of corporal injury for violating penal code section 273.5 is eligible for probation. Probation is a form of conditional supervision that the court MAY grant in its discretion.
The defendant is expected to comply with all of the terms of their probation. Failure to comply with the terms of their probation can result in the defendant’s probation being revoked and the defendant being resentenced up to the maximum punishment listed above.
As a crime of domestic violence, the court is required to impose certain conditions of probation for defendant convicted of corporal injury. Pursuant to penal code section 1203.097, must order the defendant to:
Be placed on a probation for a minimum of 36-months;
Complete a 52-week batterer’s treatment program;
Abide by a criminal protective order refraining the defendant from contacting the victim;
Pay a minimum fee of $500; AND
Pay restitution to the victim.
IMPORTANT: Any person convicted of corporal injury for violating penal code section 273.5 will be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in California for life, regardless of whether the defendant is granted probation or sentenced to imprisonment.
A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of the defendant's probation.
4. Will a conviction of corporal injury go on my record?
Yes, a conviction for corporal injury will go on your criminal record.
A criminal record, sometimes called a RAP (records of arrest and prosecution) sheet is a formal list of prior arrests and convictions. In California these records are maintained by the state’s department of justice (DOJ).
While the law provides that access to criminal records maintained by the DOJ is limited to legitimate law enforcement purposes and authorized applicants, criminal records can have far greater consequences.
It is always best to avoid a criminal conviction, if possible. However, a conviction for corporal injury is eligible for expungement and sealing after successful completion of probation. Visit the dedicated expungement page to learn more about how you can clean your prior criminal record.
5. Will a conviction of corporal injury affect my immigration status?
Corporal injury is a deportable offense that is classified as a crime of domestic violence and is sometimes considered a crime involving moral turpitude.
If the defendant is not a citizen of the United States, a conviction of corporal injury will result in the defendant’s deportation, exclusion from the United States, and denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.
To avoid these consequences, a defendant should avoid pleading guilty to corporal injury. A good criminal defense lawyer will keep this in mind when negotiating the case with the prosecutor.
6. What are some common defenses to corporal injury charges?
There are many defenses a good criminal defense lawyer can use to defend someone charged with corporal injury in violation of PC 273.5.
No Criminal Intent –
The crime of corporal injury requires that the defendant willfully inflict an injury on the victim. A defendant therefore is not guilty of corporal injury if the injury was caused by accident.
For example, imagine a husband and wife arguing with one another. To mitigate the situation, the husband locks himself in the bedroom. The wife becomes annoyed by the locked bedroom and decides to pick the lock.
Excited by her success in picking the lock, the wife triumphantly throws the door open. In doing so, the handle slams into the husband’s rib cage causing significant bruising.
The wife would not be guilty of corporal injury because she did not willfully cause the injury.
Another possible defense to corporal injury is self-defense. Self-defense is one of the most effective defense strategies in domestic violence cases since sometimes it is unclear who initiated the physical altercation.
It is important to note that a person is only entitled to use reasonable force to protect themselves from physical injury. A person is not entitled to beat someone up because the other person poked them in the chest.
It is important to remember that every situation is different. If you or someone you love has been charged with with committing a corporal injury in violation of PC 273.5, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been charged with corporal injury for allegedly violating penal code section 273.5, contact a local Orange County domestic violence lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. to schedule your FREE consultation.
John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan is a trusted Orange County criminal defense lawyer that prides himself on his ability to communicate with clients as he helps navigate them through the complex criminal justice system.
Attorney Mullen-Lujan was named one of the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orange and Newport Beach. Hire an attorney you can trust and who can provide the zealous advocacy you need.