Cases of domestic violence in California are prevalent. Many people have been victims of this criminal act, but the majority do not report these cases. Hence, the perpetrators walk free. Because domestic violence crimes hurt the whole society, law enforcement agencies are putting a lot of effort to charge and convict offenders. One of the ordinary acts of domestic violence is a corporal injury to a cohabitant. If you are being accused, investigated, or charged with this crime, you should know that your freedom is on the line. The consequences of a conviction are life-changing. You might end up serving potential jail time, paying huge fines, loss of child custody, or loss of a job. At the Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we are available to ensure your rights are protected if you are accused or charged with corporal injury on a spouse.

Overview of Corporal Injury On a Spouse

As per California PC 273.5, individuals are forbidden from intentionally inflicting physical injuries causing a traumatic condition to a victim who is a spouse or cohabitant. The victims under this definition are intimate partners. They can include:

  • Current or former spouse
  • The parent of the perpetrator’s child
  • Boyfriend
  • Girlfriend
  • Cohabitant

PC 273.5 is a general intent crime. It means that the prosecution must prove that you intended to hit or make violent contact with the victim. There are keywords in PC 273.5 legal definition you should understand. These keywords are willful, traumatic conditions, and intimate partners.

Elements the Prosecution Must Prove

For the prosecution to convict you of violating PC 273.5, they must prove some aspects of the crime. These elements include:

  1. Willfully and Unlawfully Inflicted Physical Injuries on Another Individual

The word willfully means that the defendant acted deliberately and was fully aware that the actions are a violation of the law before the act. When proving this element, the prosecution must show that there was direct physical contact by the defendant to the victim. If the bodily injury was caused as the victim was trying to flee from the defendant, then there is no violation of the law. This is because the corporal injury was not a result of direct physical force by the perpetrator to the victim.

  1. The Physical Injury Led to aTraumatic Condition

A traumatic condition means a form of injury, either internal or external, caused by physical force. The external injuries are visible, and they include a broken nose, fractured bones, black eye, or bruising. Internal injuries, on the other hand, are not viewable, and they include internal bleeding. The degree of the damage, in this case, is irrelevant. Whether the injuries are severe or not, any direct application of physical force wounding or injuring someone is considered a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition will be deemed to have caused injuries if:

  • It was a natural and probable consequence of the injury
  • The wound was a direct and significant factor in creating the condition
  • The condition would not have existed without the injury
  1. The Victim is an Existing or Former Spouse or Cohabitant

The definition of a spouse is evident as it refers to husband or wife. A cohabitant, on the other hand, refers to two unmarried persons living in a manner like that of a husband and wife with long-term goals. The prosecution considers several factors to determine if people are cohabiting or not. Some of these factors are:

  • Sexual relations or consummation while sharing the same residence
  • Sharing financial responsibilities
  • Sharing the use and ownership of property
  • The partners indicating or making statements that they are domestic partners or are in a serious relationship like that of a husband and wife
  • The length and continuity of the relationship

California law makes it is possible to cohabit or live together with more than one partner. However, there must be continuity in each relationship and a continuous residence in the houses of your partners. 

Also, it is essential to note that if the prosecution can prove you are the father or mother of the victim’s child, then you will be deemed a cohabitant even if you lost parental rights over the child.  This law does not find a pregnant woman as a mother because the baby is still unborn. The same applies to the father. If the presumed father assaults the woman, the case is inapplicable under PC 273.5 unless the two were legally cohabiting or they are or were legally married. A case like that is likely to be charged as an aggravated battery. 

If the prosecuting attorney succeeds in proving the above elements, the jury is likely to find you guilty of violating PC 273.5.

Legal Penalties for Violating PC 273.5

The penalties for violating this Penal Code depend on several factors, including whether the charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor by the prosecution. The level of the crime depends on the circumstances of the case and your criminal record. The prosecuting party will charge you with a felony PC 273.5 if the injuries inflicted on the victim are severe and if you have a history of domestic violence.

Legal Penalties for a Misdemeanor

If you are charged with and found guilty of a misdemeanor, the potential penalties include:

  • A maximum of 364 days’ jail term
  • No more than six-thousand-dollar fine
  • Misdemeanor probation

Summary probation is granted in place of the one-year jail term. The prosecution can decide to impose one of the penalties or both based on several factors like the facts of the case or your criminal history.

Penalties for a Felony Conviction

If the prosecution opts to pursue felony charges and you are convicted, the potential legal penalties are:

  • Twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight months’ incarceration
  • No more than $6,000 fine

Instead of imprisonment, the judge might opt for formal probation.

Penalties for a Felony PC 273.5 with Prior Convictions

Having a criminal past is going to impact your sentencing. A judge is likely to favor someone who is being charged with violation of the law for the first time than a person who has prior convictions. If you have been previously convicted of violating PC 243 (e) or a felony PC 273.5 within the last seven years, the penalties will increase as follows:

  • 24, 36, or 48 months’ incarceration in prison
  • No more than ten thousand dollars

Also, if you have a prior conviction for other assaults and battery or corporal injury within the previous seven years, the penalties for a felony PC 273.5 are enhanced to:

  • 24, 48, or 60 months’ state imprisonment
  • No more than $10,000 fine

Penalty Enhancement for Corporal Injury with Great Bodily Injuries (GBI)

PC 12022.7 focuses on substantial bodily or physical injuries. If, when using the physical force, you inflict GBI to the victim, a conviction attracts additional and sequential penalties. These penalties include thirty-six, forty-eight, or sixty months’ state imprisonment. 

Probation for PC 273.5 Conviction

The court has the discretion to grant parole in place of incarceration. The type of probation to be awarded depends on whether the charge was a felony or a misdemeanor. Probation is granted where there are mitigating factors or when the accused is a first offender. Summary probation lasts from twelve to thirty-six months. Formal probation, on the other hand, lasts between 36 to 60 months. Additionally, some people may be required to serve a maximum of 364 days in Orange County jail.

Being granted probation appears to be a successful event. However, it has some shortcomings because of the conditions set forth by the judge. Some of the terms of probation that you are required to comply with include:

  • A minimum jail or prison stay of fifteen days if you have been convicted of domestic violence, or sixty days if you have two or more prior assault or domestic violence convictions within the last seven years.
  • Paying a donation of five thousand dollars to a battered women's shelter
  • Attending a 52-week domestic violence course
  • Not violating any laws
  • Compensation to the victim for financial damages resulting from the injuries
  • Complying with a protective order that forbids you from getting in touch with the victim for one hundred and twenty months.

If these conditions are violated, a probation violation hearing is scheduled by a judge. If it is proved that you violated the terms of probation, the court can impose the following:

  • New and harsher conditions,
  • Require you to continue with the probation
  • Suspend the current probation and send you or the defendant to jail or prison to serve the original maximum sentence.

Immigration Consequences if you are Convicted of Violating PC 273.5

As per the federal immigration law, corporal injury to a cohabitant is considered a crime of domestic violence, which makes it a deportable offense. Also, violation of PC 273.5 might be categorized as aggravated felony or crime involving moral turpitude. These two categories are inadmissible crimes, and the consequences for conviction under any of them attracts the following outcomes:

  • If you leave the country, you have no right to re-enter
  • You lose the possibility of becoming a United States citizen
  • You lose the right to apply for a green card or change your immigration status from legal to illegal.

Penalty Enhancements Under California Three Strikes Law

In cases where corporal injury to an intimate partner causes significant bodily harm, the prosecution could request for an enhancement to have the charge elevated to a strike or a serious felony. If you had been previously convicted of a serious felony, then later charged with any other felony, you will be deemed a second striker. As a second striker, you will be facing twice the penalties you would have faced per the law. For those with two prior strikes and get a subsequent felony conviction, you will face a potential sentence of between 25 years to life imprisonment.

Legal Defenses for PC 273.5

Cases of corporal injury on an intimate partner can have severe consequences on your life. Also, these cases are unique, based on specific circumstances. The strategies to be used to fight the charges also need to be unique based on your situation, which is why an experienced criminal lawyer is necessary. Some of the defense strategies that can be used include:

  1. Self-Defense or Defense of a Different Person

Your attorney can use this defense if the following is true:

  • You had a reasonable belief that you or another person were in imminent danger from sustaining physical injuries
  • You had a reasonable belief that you had to use force immediately to protect yourself or another person
  • You didn’t use more energy than necessary

If you can verify these things before the court, then you don’t have to worry about going behind bars or being guilty of corporal injury on a cohabitant.

  1. Lack of Willfulness

For the prosecution to show the jury you are guilty; they must prove that your actions were deliberate. Your attorney, on the other hand, can get the charges dismissed by claiming that the action that led to the injuries was an accident, or you did it unknowingly. He or she will need evidence to prove an accident caused the injuries. The lawyer can argue that you were intoxicated during a heated argument, and that is when the accident occurred, leading to physical injuries that caused the traumatic condition. The prosecution is likely to reduce the charge to a domestic battery if not dismiss it.

  1. False Allegations

When intimate partners disagree or fight for child custody, anger, revenge, and jealousy might initiate some people to accuse others of spousal abuse falsely. Cases of false accusations are common, and you can use it as a defense. Evidence is, however, needed to prove that the charges are baseless allegations. Finding evidence to prove false accusations is not a walk in the park. Your criminal lawyer must do some of the following things:

  • Subpoenaing the claimant’s emails, text messages, and social media accounts
  • Cross-examining the accuser’s family, friends, and even colleagues
  • Doing some homework on the claimant and the alleged witnesses

Having a domestic violence criminal lawyer when being accused of corporal injury on an intimate partner is a great idea. The experience of these professionals will help you get a favorable outcome without having to step into a courtroom. Avoiding a trial is beneficial since it prevents wasting time and money. A trial also means that your criminal report will be available to the public, and this might adversely affect your life, especially when looking for a job or applying for college.

Common Scenarios Encountered in PC 273.5 Cases

It is not uncommon for accusers in domestic violence cases to recant their allegations or decide to drop the charges. The prosecution, however, never stops at this because it believes some of these accusers are coerced to refusing to testify or dropping the charges. Below are some of the common scenarios in corporal injury to a spouse and what it means to you as a defendant:

The Claimant Decides to Drop the Charges

As said earlier, this is a common scenario in domestic violence cases where the accuser decides not to press charges. The prosecution never buys this story because they believe the victim has been threatened or emotionally manipulated to drop the charges or not to press any charges. When a victim decides not to cooperate, cases become harder to prosecute. Even if the prosecution attorney chooses to go ahead with the charges, they end up offering plea deals or dropping the charges entirely because of weak evidence. 

The Accuser Decides not to Testify

Another common scenario is where the victim fails to testify against the accused during a court hearing. The issue, however, doesn’t affect the prosecution a lot because the prosecutor is given the subpoena powers by the court, which will allow them to force you to appear before the court and testify. The subpoena must be served personally to the accuser. In case they fail to honor the court request, a bench warrant can be issued to have the accuser arrested.

The Claimant cannot be Brought to Court

Some of the accusers or victims of corporal injury flee their jurisdiction or go to hide because of fear. If such a person is not around, then he or she cannot be brought in court, and that means the prosecution cannot continue with the case. This is because of the hearsay evidence, which is a secondhand statement made by another individual who is not a witness on record to prove the truth of the matter.  Hearsay evidence is inadmissible in court because the defendant never gets a chance to interview or confront the witness when witness statements are made outside the court. If a witness cannot be brought in court, the case will be dismissed.

PC 273.5 and Other Related Offenses   

Several other domestic violence offenses can be charged alongside or in place of corporal injury. These offenses include:

  1. Domestic Battery

The crime is defined under PC 243 (e), and it forbids offensive or harmful contact with an intimate partner. Compared to PC 273.5, PC 243 (e) is a lesser offense and doesn’t require the victim to have sustained actual injuries. The battery is filed as a misdemeanor, and the punishment includes no more than twelve months in jail or a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars. The judge might also decide to grant you probation in place of incarceration. The probation, however, comes with a condition of a compulsory completion of a batterer’s treatment program. Compared to PC 273.5, the domestic battery has lighter penalties, which makes it suitable for a plea bargain. You can get your PC 273.5 charge reduced to domestic battery for lighter sentencing.

  1. Disturbing Peace

According to PC 415, it is illegal to:

  • Be involved in a fight in a public place,
  • Make unreasonable noise that disturbs others
  • Direct fighting words to another person in a public area.

When being charged with PC 273.5, you can take a plea bargain and get the charges reduced to disturbing peace. It is the best deal you can get because there are no immigration consequences or social stigma associated with a conviction for this offense. At times disturbing peace is deemed a non-criminal infraction or low-level misdemeanor with lighter penalties. If you are convicted of violating PC 415, the punishment is three months’ incarceration or no more than dollars four hundred fine.

  1. Elder Abuse

PC 368 forbids individuals from negligently or willfully inflicting unreasonable bodily harm and mental anguish to a person who is older than sixty-five years.  This offense is often charged alongside Corporal injury on a cohabitant if you, as the defendant, inflict physical injuries to a spouse or intimate partner 65 years or above, resulting in a traumatic condition. With the two charges, if one of them has weaker evidence, they can drop it and continue with the one that has enough evidence for a conviction. PC 368 can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction include:

  • No more than one hundred and eighty days in jail
  • A max of one thousand dollars

A felony conviction, on the other hand, attracts the following penalties:

  • 24, 36, or 48 months’ incarceration
  • No more than $6,000

You will face enhanced penalties if the victim is seventy years or above and if he or she suffers significant bodily injuries or death.

Find a Orange County Domestic Violence Lawyer Near Me

If you have been accused of violating PC 273.5, we invite you to reach out to Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-262-4833 for a free consultation. We are knowledgeable in all cases of domestic violence, including corporal injury on a spouse, and we will put up the best strategies to contest or fight the charges. Also, we know of the best techniques to prevent the case from going to trial. By avoiding a trial, we save you all the costs, time, and social stigma that comes with a court proceeding.