Corporal injury is among the most common cases of domestic violence in California and considered a serious offense since it involves causing physical injuries. Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is ready to defend you in case you are accused of this charge. We work with clients throughout Vista, CA and North County.

What Is the Legal Definition of Corporal Injury?

Corporal injury is a criminal act that causes physical injury to an individual of close relationship regardless of whether the injury is minor or serious. Under penal code 273.5, it is a crime to willfully cause physical injury to a spouse or a cohabitant that in any case, results in a traumatic condition. You are seen to have acted willfully if you intentionally injured or inflicted pain on a person even if you did not intend to break the law. In relation to corporal injury, traumatic condition refers to any wound or physical injury on an individual’s body that resulted from a direct application of physical force by another person. Some physical injuries that California law view to cause traumatic conditions include:

  • Suffocation or strangulation resultant injuries
  • Bruises
  • Some internal bleeding
  • Broken or dislodged bones or jaws

Corporal injury is classified as domestic violence in California, and consequently referred to as domestic abuse in some cases. It is also common to refer this crime under pc 273.5 with the reflection of the specific victim; for example, corporal injury on a cohabitant or spouse, spousal abuse, or intentional infliction of corporal injury.

When the injury is directed to a child, the offense is considered a neglect of child abuse laws. Hence, the offender would be charged under penal code 273 (d) with child abuse or corporal injury to a child.

Corporal injury is often confused with domestic battery. The difference, however, lies on the fact that corporal injury requires involvement of an actual injury. When this element is not present, the corporal injury crimes can be charged as domestic battery under penal code 243 (e). Nevertheless, another element that validates corporal injury charges is that the victim must have an intimate relationship with the offender.

What is the Legal Definition of an ‘Intimate Partner’?

In relation to penal code 273.5, an intimate partner is anybody related to the defendant as a former or current spouse, fiancée, parent, registered domestic partner, former or present cohabitant, boyfriend/girlfriend, or a mother or father to the defendant’s child.

Cohabiting as one of the factors that determine the defendant/victim intimate relationship, implies living together. Some of the factors that show people are cohabiting include sharing of incomes, joint ownership or use of property, serious relationship, and the sexual relationship among the individual parties while sharing a residence. It can also be viewed from the length the parties’ relationship and its ability to be continued. It is important to note that, California’s domestic violence law views it as possible for an individual (defendant) to live or cohabit with more than one person.

What Proves a Traumatic Condition for a Corporal Injury Prosecution?

For a person to be accused of causing a victim's traumatic condition and be charged with corporal injury, the prosecution must prove that the actions of the defendant are the actual cause of the victim’s traumatic condition. They must also ascertain that the condition was natural and an apparent result of the injury was a considerable cause of the traumatic condition. In addition, the prosecution must prove that the victim’s traumatic condition would not have occurred without the injuries caused by the defendant.  

What Type of An Offense Is Corporal Injury?

Corporal injury according to penal code 273.5 is a wobbler offense. Prosecutors determine whether to charge the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant. Similarly, the choice of charges may be determined by the degree of injury the defendant caused on the victim. In most cases, a felony charge is administered when the injuries caused on the intimate partner are serious or when it is realized that the defendant has had prior domestic violence cases. Otherwise, the charges would be misdemeanors.

Offenses Related to PC 273.5 Corporal Injury

There are a variety of domestic violence closely related to corporal injury. The charges are often charged alongside corporal injury offense or in some cases, as alternative charges. Some of these charges are discussed below.

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery is catered for by the penal code 243(e) (1), which considers it illegal to touch an intimate partner in a harmful and offensive manner. Domestic battery differs in several perspectives from corporal injury. For instance, it does not require the defendant to cause a serious injury on the victim, so long as the touch was harmful or ill-intentioned. Also, it is always treated as misdemeanor case whose charges and penalties include an up to one year in county jail and a fine of 2000 dollars.  In some cases, the judge may offer formal probation or subject the perpetrator to completion of the victim’s medical programs. Due to its leniency, domestic battery often qualifies as an option to reduce the charges to corporal injury.

Disturbing the Peace

Under the penal code 415, it as a crime to make unreasonable noise which can disturb others, fight with another person in public, or project some abusive and provocative utterances to another individual. In case you are convicted for this offense, you will face 90 days in jail and an additional fine of 400 dollars or alternatively, fine alone. As part of plea bargain, the prosecutors are often willing to cut corporal injury charges to disturbing the peace because of some benefits it has to the defendants. For instance, it carries no stigma, penalties or discrimination pertaining to immigration.  Similarly, the charge is viewed as misdemeanor attracting lenient penalties.

Abusing the elderly

According to the penal code 368, it is a crime to impose or cause pains and/or mental sufferings which are unjustifiable to a person who is 65 and above of age. If the prosecution establishes the victim of corporal injury is above 65, you can be charged with abusing the elderly instead of corporal injury. In some cases, you may also face both charges. Like corporal injury offense, the penal code 368 is treated as a wobbler offense and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor you can be subjected to a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to 1000 dollars. If the case is treated as a felony, the penalties you will face include a two, three, or four years in state prison or a fine of up to 6000 dollars. 

California child endangerment laws

If you are accused of corporal injury and you have a child, you can be charged with penal code 273.5(a) child endangerment alongside pc 273.5. The law views it as punishable to willfully expose a child to pain, suffering or danger. In many cases, this offense is taken as a misdemeanor whose penalties include up to one year in county jail and/or a maximum fine of 1000 dollars. However, in case you subject the child to high risks of death or great bodily injury, you may be charged with a felony whose penalties include but not limited to two, four or six years in state prison and/or a fine of up to 10000 dollars.

Penalties for Corporal Injury on Intimate Partner

The penalties for corporal injury offense differ depending on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. It also depends on whether the accused has prior convictions of cases related to corporal injuries or assaults.

Misdemeanor corporal injury penalty

When charged with causing misdemeanor corporal injury on an intimate partner, the penalties may include up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to 6000 dollars. Instead of a jail term, the judge may decide to sentence the defendant to probation. The probation normally lasts for one to three years. During the summary probation, the defendant is required to comply with a variety of conditions which may include attending counseling, participating in community work, or paying restitution.

Felony Corporal Injury Penalty

In case you are charged with felony corporal injury on an intimate partner, the basic penalties include but not limited to either two, three, or four years in state prison. A fine of 6000 dollars may be administered in addition to a jail term or as an alternative to imprisonment. Like in a misdemeanor charge, the judge may decide to sentence the defendant to a California felony formal probation. In this case, the accused serve the entire or part of the sentence in the community but under supervision.

The felony probation normally takes between three to five years and is offered only to first-time offenders or whenever there are reasonable mitigating factors. During this time, the defendant is required to observe some conditions which may include regularly reporting to a probation officer, paying restitution fees to the victim, restraining from committing any offense, completing some community service, attending at least 52 classes of domestic violence, and paying up to 5000 dollars to the victim.

What Happens If the Probationer Violates the Probation Condition?

When a defendant goes against the probation condition, the judge is allowed by the law to organize for a probation hearing. During this hearing, the judge would try to find out if actually, the defendant failed to comply with the set probation conditions. If proved, the judge can invalidate the probation and send the respondent to jail, impose newer and harsher conditions or in some cases, continue the probation as it was before.

Penalty for a Felony with Prior Conviction

Unlike penalties for misdemeanor and felony corporal injury, penalties under this section of a felony can be harsher. However, they apply only if the defendant has been convicted of the following within the previous seven years.

  • Assaulting or battering with dangerous caustic chemicals
  • Assaulting in possession of a deadly weapon
  • Committing sexual battery
  • Battering on a spouse
  • Causing corporal injury on a spouse
  • Assaulting or battering causing a bodily injury.

When prior convicted for domestic battery, for instance, the felony penalties are increased to two, three or four years in state prison. The fine would also increase to 10000 dollars from the normal 6000 dollars. Similarly, when prior convicted for other forms of assault and battery or corporal injury, the penal code 273.5 increases the consequences to two, four, or five years in state prison and/or a fine adding up to 10000 dollars. Also, if you are given a probation when prior convicted of similar or related offense to corporal injury in the past seven years, you will be required to serve a minimum of 15 days in state prison. Likewise, if you have had two or more prior conviction of the same kind, you might serve 60 days in state prison.

In some situations, a person may cause serious bodily injuries to an intimate partner. In such cases, the accused is subjected to enhanced penalties pursuant to penal code 12022.7, which describes great bodily injury as any noteworthy or considerable physical injury. The penalties under this section would include three, four, or, five years incarceration.

Immigration Consequences of a Corporal Injury Conviction

Corporal injury on an intimate partner is a crime of domestic violence and hence ‘deportable’. Corporal injury crime also may be viewed as involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony which are inadmissible crimes in the state of California. Any individual convicted of the offense face various migratory limitations which include denial of rights to re-enter the state after leaving, denial of rights to apply for a green card or adjustment of status. In this case, the accused has no right to change his/her status from illegal to a legal immigrant. In addition, the defendant can be barred from becoming a citizen of the U.S.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Corporal Injury in California?

Self-Defense or Defense of Others

The criminal attorney can defend the accused by claiming that he or she was defending himself or herself or someone else, and in the process, caused the injury. For instance, if the alleged victim started the fight forcing the defendant to push or even restrain the victim out of fear, the attorney can use self-defense as a valid reason to fight charges of corporal injury. However, this legal defense strategy applies when it is true that the defendant reasonably believes that he or she, or someone else was in actual danger and believed that the only way to avoid the danger was to use force. In addition, it must be true that the force used by the defendant was only meant to defend himself, herself, or others from danger and not to cause the injury.

False Accusation

In California, allegations related to domestic violence are always taken seriously. As such, many people have been erroneously charged or arrested on a foundation of false allegation. Jealousy, anger, the desire for revenge are among the sources of false allegation people place on others. Someone may claim that you committed violent attack causing injury in order to receive an upper hand or favors from the proceedings of different courts. If the attorney can confirm that the alleged victim actually had some hidden motives behind the allegation, the judge might dismiss the charges of corporal injury on grounds of foundationless allegations. In order to use this legal defense strategy, the attorney, has to conduct a series of research and investigation to establish the truth. This may include interviewing the family members, friends, and those close to the defendant or the alleged victim. Online and social media may also serve as a potential source of information the lawyer can help establish facts which can be used to fight against the false allegations.

Lack of Willfulness

A legal defense attorney can also argue that the defendant injured the victim accidentally and not willfully. Accidental injuries on the spouse or cohabitant may occur following a heated argument. Some physical contacts may be made which may end up causing unintentional injuries. According to penal code 273.5, one is accused of causing corporal injury if he or she willfully caused injury to an intimate partner. Considering this condition, a defendant will possibly not be guilty of a corporal injury offense if an attorney claims that he or she did not act willfully but caused the injury accidentally. This legal defense can help charges be dismissed or in some cases, penalties reduced.

Find Vista Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Corporal Injury convictions not only entail fines and jail time but also may bring on adverse personal life issues. However, Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is available and willing to help you through your criminal case. Our criminal defense attorneys can also handle all types of criminal cases and those related to corporal injury in all of Vista, CA and North County. Give us a call at 760-691-1551 and let us help you navigate your case.