In California, corporal injury is defined as deliberately causing a bodily injury that creates a traumatic condition on a close companion. The purported victim must be a child, present or previous spouse, fiancé, cohabitant, girlfriend, boyfriend, or the parent of the respondent’s child for this section to apply. This means that corporal injury is violence against a person who has a relationship with the defendant.
Corporal injury laws are designed to give special protection to the victims because their relationship to the defendant makes them more vulnerable. With this, the punishment for those who break these laws is severe. Prosecutors have the discretion to pursue the maximum sentence possible even with minimal injury. Therefore, you’re facing serious punishment if you’ve been charged with violence in California.
Types of Criminal Charges
In California, there’s no specific law covering corporal injury. However, the charges will be dependent on your relationship with the alleged victim and the actions that allegedly took place. Common corporal injury charges include:
- Battery or corporal injury on a spouse- PC 273.5
Corporal injury under Penal Code Section 273.5 is a crime involving violence resulting in a traumatic condition against a person with an intimate relationship with the defendant. This may include the parent of your child, someone you’ve been in a dating relationship with, a current or former cohabitant, or a current or former spouse.
- Child abuse- PC 273 (d)
In California, it is a crime to inflict inhuman or cruel corporal injury or punishment on a child pursuant to Penal Code Section 273d. Therefore, parents are allowed to apply discipline to their children for instance through an act such as spanking. However, if the punishment is cruel or inhuman, and causes even the slightest injury, the act can result in a conviction. If convicted of child abuse, you may lose the custody of your child or get monitored visitation. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your visitation rights can be removed altogether. The situation will remain as such until it can be proven that you do not pose a risk to your child.
Prosecution of Corporal Injury
To be convicted of PC 273 corporal injury, there is need for the prosecution to prove a number of elements beyond a shadow of a doubt. These include:
The term willfully denotes that you acted willingly or on purpose, regardless of whether or not it was your intention to break the law. For instance, Maureen and Rob are in the course of divorcing when Rob pays Maureen a visit in a house they once shared to iron out issues concerning the children. They get into an argument, and Rob twists Maureen’s arm to intimidate her, but in the process, her elbow is dislocated. Although Rob’s intention was not to dislocate Maureen’s elbow, he acted willingly and thus; he can be guilty of Penal Code 273.
A traumatic condition denotes a wound or any physical injury that comes about as a result of direct physical force application. It does not require to be severe, a minor injury or wound will be sufficient. For the purposes of California’s corporal injury law, injuries that qualify as traumatic include:
- Internal bleeding,
- A broken bone,
- Injuries that come about due to strangulation or suffocation, and
- Bruised-eye - Even a slight injury like a black eye succeeds to be termed as a "traumatic condition" for determinations of California's corporal injury law.
Resulting from the physical injury
You may only be sentenced for causing injury willingly if the injury you inflicted truly caused the traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is viewed to have been by an injury if:
- The injury was a considerable and direct cause of the traumatic condition,
- The traumatic condition was a probable and natural consequence of the injury and
- The condition would not have occurred without the injury.
Against a person you have a close relationship with
For the purposes of Penal Code 273, the crime of corporal injury can only hold if the offense was committed on somebody with whom you have a familial relationship with such as:
- Your child,
- A former or current spouse,
- A person with whom you’re living together,
- A fiancé,
- The parent of your child, and
- An individual whom you previously had or have been dating.
Penalties for Corporal Injury
The punishments for corporal injury are stipulated in Penal Code 273, the corporal injury statute. Since the offense is a wobbler, the prosecution can choose to seek either felony or misdemeanor penalties. The route the prosecutor pursues will be informed by the defendant’s criminal record and the facts of the case. The least misdemeanor punishments for a corporal injury conviction include:
- A maximum of one year in the county jail,
- Up to six thousand dollars (US$6,000) fine and/or
- Misdemeanor probation
And the simple felony punishments PC 273 are:
- A state prison term of two (2), three (3), or four (4) years
- Up to six million dollars’ worth of fine and/or
- Formal felony probation.
Additionally, the penalties of a misdemeanor or felony corporal injury conviction will probably include a protective or restraining order stopping you from getting into any contact with the victim, for a maximum of ten years.
The possible punishment escalates if you have a previous sentence for other California assault/battery offenses or domestic violence. For instance, if you have a previous conviction for domestic Penal code 243(e) (1) that is less than seven (7) years old, the maximum fine increases to ten thousand dollars (US$ 10,000). Again, the maximum felony prison sentence escalates to five (5) years, and the maximum fine rises to ten thousand dollars (US$ 10,000) if you have a past conviction that is less than seven (7) years old for any of the offenses below:
- Aggravated battery,
- Simple battery
- Assault with a deadly weapon, or sexual battery Penal Code 243.4 PC
Great physical injury sentence enhancement
In case you have charged with corporal injury as a felony and the victim’s injury is severe enough, under California “great physical injury” sentencing law, you could also face a sentence enhancement. “Great bodily injury” is described as a substantial or significant injury. It can attract an extra three (3) to five (5) years in prison for a Penal Code 273 defendant.
Possible probation circumstances for a PC 273 sentence
Penal Code 273 conviction probation application is informed by special conditions. If you’re penalized by probation, also recognized as a “suspended sentence, for a misdemeanor or felony corporal injury, your probation conditions will comprise at least some of the circumstances below:
- At least 15-days incarnation in county jail if you have a previous conviction that is less than seven (7) years for any of the offenses in the list above and at least 60-day stay for those with two (2) or more of these priors in the previous seven (7) years.
- An obligation that you compensate the victim for counseling and other sensible expenditures that have come about as a result of your criminal behavior; and/or
- A condition that you join a batterer's treatment program.
Immigration consequences of a corporal injury conviction
For a defendant who is not a United States citizen, the consequences of a corporal injury conviction might be especially serious. Due to the fact that corporal injury is categorized as domestic violence, under immigration law, it is a “deportable crime.” Since it is “a crime of moral turpitude” it can have consequences of not only your immigration position but also your capacity to attest in court and some professional licenses.
California's three strikes law
Corporal injury conviction could also be a “strike” offense under California's three strikes law; if the accusation is that you perpetrated “great bodily injury” on the casualty. What it means is that if you’re sentenced of corporal injury with great physical injury charge and then charged with whichever felony, you will qualify for a “second strike’. Therefore your probable sentences will double the term the law requires. For California “strike” offenses, if you accrue three serious and/or aggressive felony convictions, among them a Penal Code 273 charge with great bodily injury, you be looking at a jail sentence of twenty-five years to life.
Fighting Corporal Injury Charges
Penal Code 273 charges, going by their consequences are a serious matter. When you’re charged with this crime, you and your criminal defense lawyer will need to work hard to beat the corporal injury charges or get them lessened. If you acted in self-defense, then you’re not guilty of corporal injury. Below are some common legal defenses that can assist you to fight the charges:
Self-defense/defense of others
The legal defense of self-defense/defense of others is only applicable if the situation satisfies all of the following:
- You realistically assumed that you or somebody else was in impending danger of being unlawfully touched or suffering bodily injury,
- You rationally held that the instantaneous use of force was essential to protect against that danger and
- The force that you used was just enough to protect against that danger.
If you can demonstrate all of the above specifics, then you’re not guilty of intentional infliction of corporal injury on your child or intimate partner. For instance, Michele finds her sister Leah in bed with her husband. Angry, she takes a knife and tries to attack Leah. Jason is compelled to wrestle Michele to the ground in order to restrain her and in the process she hit’s her head. However, she does not drop the knife, and Jason chokes her just long enough to get her to drop it. Jason might perhaps fight corporal injury charges by arguing fruitfully that he was acting both in self-defense and in Leah’s defense.
It is common for individuals to be erroneously accused for corporal injury. In these cases, the accusation is characteristically grounded on false allegations instigated out of a desire for revenge, anger or jealousy. Luckily, a skilled criminal/domestic violence defense counsel has seen this state of affairs numerous times in the past and knows how to interview witnesses and gather evidence so as to assist establish the truth. Numerous purported victims in California domestic violence have been known to recant their accusations.
Reluctant Witnesses in California Domestic Violence Cases
One strange condition that arises quite frequently in domestic violence and corporal injury cases is that the complainant either decides not to testify against the defendant or recants their accusations completely. Some frequent varieties of this state are:
- The accuser decides they want to “drop the charges”
Even if the victim decides that they “do not want to press charges,” there is a high likelihood that the prosecutor will proceed to charge the defendant with corporal injury nonetheless. The prosecutor in such cases assumes that the purported victim is only dropping the PC273 charges because the defendant is coercing or threatening them. The defendant could also be emotionally manipulating the complainant.
- The complainant declines to testify in court
The frequent alternative bottleneck in California domestic abuse cases and corporal injury cases is when the purported complainant declines to testify against the defendant at trial. However, the prosecutor has the “subpoena power’ to compel the accuser to come and testify in court by force.
The complainant cannot be gotten into court
If the complainant or any other prosecution witness in a corporal injury case cannot be forced to appear since they fled the country or are in hiding, there is a high likelihood that the prosecutor will be unable to proceed with the case. The “hearsay rule” which is a crucial evidence rule in California, obliges that the offender gets an opportunity to cross-examine and confront witnesses against them. When this cannot happen, then the witness's out-of-court statements are excluded.
How We Can Help You
If you or your loved one has been charged with corporal injury, it is imperative that you contact with a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced corporal injury who understands how the system works can review your case, collect the necessary evidence, and develop the best defense strategy to achieve the best results. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we fight tooth and nail to protect the record, freedom, and future of our clients. At every stage of the case, we try to find creative techniques to solve your problem. Our attorneys are available to assist you any time 24/7. To schedule a free, confidential consultation for a corporal injury offense, call 626-689-2277 now or fill out our online contact form and we’ll get back to you in no time. We will get through the case together.