California has a stringent law against domestic violence, mainly if it entails inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner. A spouse could be anyone you are or were in a romantic relationship with. The outcome of this offense is severe and may include a lengthy prison term and hefty penalties. Additionally, a conviction record could affect your social and career life.

If you face charges for inflicting a corporal injury on your spouse in Riverside, CA, it is advisable to hire a competent criminal attorney to help fight the charges to avoid a conviction. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have the necessary skills, experience, and tools to support you through the legal process and defense until you obtain a fair outcome of your case. We might help compel the judge to either reduce or dismiss your charges.

Legal Definition of Corporal Injury on a Spouse

Domestic violence is a general term that incorporates all crimes committed against an intimate partner, whether still in the relationship or separated. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. It could also involve exploiting a partner through particular patterns of abuse or exploitation of power imbalances. A physical injury on a partner is a domestic violence offense. It entails willingly inflicting a visible injury on an intimate partner, resulting in a traumatic condition. Depending on the situation’s circumstances, it is a severe form of domestic violence that could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

California law against inflicting a corporal injury on an intimate partner is under California PC 273.5. The offense occurs when one person that is or was in a close relationship with another willingly inflicts a corporal injury on the other, causing the other partner to incur a traumatic condition. To understand this offense better, let us discuss some of its elements in greater detail.

To Willfully Inflict Physical Injury

You can only face charges under California PC 273.5 if you willfully inflicted a bodily injury on a former or current spouse. A person willfully or knowingly commits an offense when they act deliberately, willingly, or intentionally. However, you need not intend to commit a crime. 

Example: During a heated argument between a couple, the woman pushed the man as she angrily stormed out of the house. The man fell on the hard floor and broke his arm. 

The woman didn’t intend to injure the man. But, she intentionally pushed the man out of her way, causing a corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition (a broken limb). Thus, the woman could be guilty of inflicting a physical injury on the man.

Traumatic Condition

A corporal injury on a close partner is a visible injury that results in a traumatic condition. 

A traumatic condition refers to a wound or bodily injury resulting from the direct use of physical violence. It could be mild or severe, depending on the amount of force used. 

Here are examples of traumatic conditions that could be accepted under this law:

  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Concussions
  • Bruises 
  • Injuries from strangulation or suffocation

For the sake of this statute, this traumatic condition should be a direct result of the physical force applied to a close partner. The district attorney must demonstrate that your actions resulted in the alleged victim incurring a traumatic condition. 

A traumatic condition is believed to be a direct consequence of a bodily injury if it satisfies the following facts:

  • It was natural and a probable result of the bodily injury
  • The physical injury directly resulted in the traumatic condition
  • The condition wouldn’t have occurred in the absence of the physical injury

Example: Sara has been going out with another man behind her boyfriend’s back. Sammy (her boyfriend, learns about it from his best friend and decides to confront Sara. An argument ensues between the couple. Angrily, Sammy starts walking away, swearing to end things with Sara. He slips and falls a few meters from where Sara is left, incurring bruises on his face, left hand, and leg.

Sammy might have fallen due to anger caused by Sara’s alleged infidelity. But Sara’s actions were not a direct cause of Sammy’s bruises. In that case, Sara is not guilty of inflicting physical injuries on her intimate partner. 

Intimate Partner/A Spouse

Corporal Injury on a close partner is an offense committed against a spouse. As used under this statute, an intimate partner will be any of the following persons. Former or current:

  • Spouse
  • Cohabitant/live-in girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Domestic partner (registered)
  • Fiance or Fiancee
  • The person you were or are in a dating relationship
  • Your child’s other parent

If you are or were living together with the alleged victim (cohabitants), the following factors might prove that you were intimate partners:

  • You had/have sexual relations while living under the same house
  • You are/were sharing income and expenses
  • You are/were joint owners of a particular property
  • You presented yourselves as a couple in a relationship
  • There’s prove of continuity of your relationship
  • The relationship lasted for a while

Note that it is not unusual for a person to cohabit with two or more people simultaneously.

Differences Between Domestic Violence and Corporal Injury on a Spouse

Domestic violence and corporal injury on an intimate partner are different offenses. Their difference is mainly in the extent of physical injuries incurred by the victim. 

Domestic violence is a general offense committed against a spouse. It doesn’t necessarily involve a visible injury. A corporal injury on a partner after domestic violence makes a general crime more severe. Penalties after a conviction for corporal injury on a partner are higher. Additionally, the offender is subject to a sentence enhancement based on the facts of the matter. 

In California, domestic violence is generally a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a court fine of not exceeding $2,000. Corporal Injury on a close partner is a wobbler. It can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the situation’s circumstances. 

Penalties for a Conviction Under PC 273.5

As mentioned above, corporal injury on a close partner is a wobbler offense, prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. The prosecutor has total discretion to decide your charges, depending on your criminal record and the circumstances of your case. 

You will likely face felony charges under California PC 273.5 if the following are true:

  • The alleged victim incurred severe physical injuries
  • You have an account of violence, whether domestic violence or aggressive acts

If charged with a misdemeanor for inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner, you are likely to receive the following penalties upon conviction:

  • A maximum of one year in jail
  • A court fine of not exceeding $6,000

As an alternative, the magistrate might send you on misdemeanor probation in the place of jail. 

A felony conviction for the same offense is likely to attract even graver penalties, including:

  • Two, three, or four years of imprisonment
  • A maximum fine of $6,.000

Under specific circumstances, the magistrate might decide to place you on felony probation instead of the prison sentence. 

Penalties under this statute are likely to be even graver if you have prior convictions for the same or similar offenses in your criminal record. The crime remains a wobbler even if you have a previous conviction for assault or domestic violence. However, the penalties you will likely receive for a felony conviction will be more significant if you have a prior violence-related conviction within the last seven years for the following offenses:

  • Corporal injury on an intimate partner
  • Battery or assault causing severe bodily harm
  • Battery or assault using a corrosive chemical
  • Assault using a stun gun
  • Assault using a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Sexual battery
  • Battery on an intimate partner

If you have a prior sentence for battering an intimate partner as under California PC 243(e), your penalties for the underlying charge under PC 273.5 will likely increase to:

  • Two, three, or four years of imprisonment
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

But if the previous conviction on your criminal record is for any other offense listed earlier and not battery on your intimate partner, your penalties for the underlying charge will likely increase to:

  • Two, four, or five years of imprisonment
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Sentence Enhancement for Corporal Injury on an Intimate Partner Causing Great Bodily Injury

Sentence enhancement for this statute is under California PC 12022.7. You will likely be subject to a sentence enhancement if your actions caused your partner to incur great bodily harm. Great bodily injuries refer to substantial physical injuries. In that case, you will likely receive an additional sentence, which you must serve consecutively with the penalty for the underlying offense. The additional sentence could be three (3), four (4), or five (5) years of imprisonment.

Probation in Place or Together With Jail/Prison Time

Probation is quite common in the California justice system for both misdemeanor and felony convictions. Judges have total discretion to award probation in place of or together with jail/prison time. The type of probation you receive will depend on your underlying charge. Thus, it could be either misdemeanor (summary) or felony (formal) probation. 

Misdemeanor probation generally lasts for 1 to 3 years. You may not serve jail time if sent on probation after conviction. 

Felony probation is generally more extended and could last for a maximum of five years. You may have to serve at least one year in jail, then the rest of the sentence on probation. You will likely receive felony probation for inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner if you are a first offender, or your case includes mitigating factors. Mitigating factors are any information or evidence presented in court that could result in reduced charges or penalties. For instance, if your actions were an accident or you acted in self-defense. 

If the judge sends you on probation, he/she will give you a list of probation conditions by which you must abide throughout the probation period. Again, the nature and number of probation conditions will depend on the underlying charges. The most common probation conditions for inflicting a corporal injury on an intimate partner are:

  • Payment of court fines
  • Payment of restitution to the victim or his/her family— The victim can use the money for reasonable expenses like counseling.
  • Payment of a maximum of $5000 to a shelter for battered women if applicable to your case.
  • Mandatory attendance of a domestic violence program for at least 52 weeks
  • Completion of community service
  • Not committing any crime within the probation period
  • Adhering to any protective or restraining order that forbids any communication with the alleged victim or members of the victim’s family
  • Jail time of at least fifteen days if you have a previous conviction for domestic violence or assault in the last seven years
  • Jail time of at least sixty days if you have two or more prior convictions. 

Consequences of Probation Violation

The judge expects you to abide by all probation conditions. Violating one or more conditions is an offense that attracts additional severe consequences. When the judge suspects or receives information that you have violated probation, he/she will plan a hearing to determine the result of the violation. The probation officer in charge of your case will present evidence of the violation in court during the hearing. If the evidence is sufficient to prove the violation, the judge will do one of the following:

  • Dismiss the issue and order you to continue on probation like before
  • Do away with the previous probation conditions, and impose new and harsher conditions
  • Revoke your probation

If the latter happens, the likely outcome would be for the judge to send you to prison or jail to serve the maximum penalty provided under the law for the underlying offense. 

Other Consequences of a Conviction under California PC 273.5

In addition to criminal penalties, a conviction for inflicting a corporal injury on an intimate partner carries other life-changing consequences you should be aware of. Some of them are:

Immigration Consequences

Inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner is a domestic violence offense under the Federal immigration laws. Thus, it is a deportable offense. In some instances, it is also considered a crime of moral turpitude, hence carrying severe immigration consequences. The offense could also be considered an aggravated offense if it involves inflicting a severe bodily injury on the alleged victim. All these factors make it an inadmissible offense.

It means that you will likely face deportation if you are a non-citizen after conviction under this law. If you are trying to obtain a permanent residence status, you could be labeled inadmissible into the United States. The typical consequences of facing a conviction for an inadmissible offense are:

  • Losing the right to come back to the United States once you leave
  • No chance of ever becoming a citizen of the United States
  • Loss of the right to seek an adjustment of your immigration status or a green card — You will not be able to change your status from an illegal to a legal immigrant.

A Strike

The California Three-Strike Law is a sentencing law that provides additional penalties for anyone with a previous conviction for a crime considered a strike. A physical injury on a spouse resulting in great bodily harm is a strike offense. Offenses that are considered severe felonies are listed as strikes under the Three-Strike law. 

If you have a conviction for a strike offense in your criminal record, you will be a second strike if you are sentenced for inflicting a severe bodily injury on your intimate partner. Two prior strikes make you a third-striker for the underlying conviction. If you have two previous strike convictions, the third strike is punishable by 25-to-life in prison. 

Possible Legal Defenses for Charges under California PC 273.5

A conviction for inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner carries life-changing consequences you should be aware of. It is advisable to fight the charges to avoid conviction. The help of an experienced criminal attorney might help you obtain the outcome you deserve from your case. Fortunately for you, California law allows the use of specific legal defense strategies to fight and avoid a conviction under this statute. Your attorney can use one or more of these strategies to compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. They are:


Self-defense is a widely-used defense strategy for most violence-related charges. You could use this strategy to defend yourself against charges under PC 273.5 if you caused your partner’s corporal injury while protecting yourself. However, California law provides a guideline through which this strategy can be accepted as a defense.

You must have honestly believed that you or another person was in immediate danger of suffering bodily harm through the other person’s actions. You must have also considered that using direct force at that time was needed to protect yourself or the other person from danger. But, you must not have used more violence than necessary under the circumstances to defend yourself or the other person. 

If your situation satisfies all those requirements, you will not be guilty of inflicting a corporal injury on your intimate partner. 

No Willful Act

Corporal Injury on a partner requires you to have acted willfully, willingly, or deliberately. If your actions were not willful, then you may not be guilty of the charges. 

If you did not act willingly, it could mean that the injury was purely accidental. Remember that an accidental injury could occur even after a fiery argument. 

Example: James storms out of the house in the middle of a heated argument with his wife, Sally. Unknown to James, Sally is following him right behind. James furiously bangs the door, hitting his wife and causing her to fall on the concrete floor of their kitchen. Sally’s head hits a nearby chair. She incurs a concussion and several bruises on her face and hand. In this case, James did not intentionally inflict a corporal injury on his wife. Thus, he is guilty of corporal injury, even though the injury occurred right after a heated quarrel. 

False Accusations

Your attorney can use this defense if you face charges for an offense you did not commit. False accusations happen all the time. Sadly, some people are paying for offenses they did not commit. A strong defense could help you avoid a conviction if you honestly face charges for a crime you know nothing about.

The police in California take domestic violence allegations very seriously. Thus, they must make an arrest whenever they respond to a domestic violence call or situation. Sadly, they conduct a little investigation before arresting and booking the suspect in. Before you know it, you appear before a jury to answer to charges of an offense you did not commit.

People face false accusations for severe offenses due to several reasons like the desire for vengeance, jealousy, or anger. If that happened to you, your attorney should be able to present compelling evidence to demonstrate in court that you did not commit the said offense. 

An experienced criminal defense lawyer could interview the alleged victim, his/her family, and neighbors to determine the truth. He/she could also conduct a background investigation on the alleged victim and any witness that would have testified in the victim’s favor.

Find a Competent Riverside Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

If you face charges for corporal injury on an intimate partner, you will likely face severe criminal and life-changing consequences upon conviction. But, the help of a competent criminal defense lawyer could change the outcome of your case. Your attorney will make the legal process smooth, help you gather evidence, and prepare a strong defense against your charges. Our team of skilled and experienced criminal attorneys at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm are ready to pick up your case. Call us at 951-946-6366 if you face charges in Riverside, CA, and let us study the details of your case for proper planning.