Domestic disputes among intimate partners are a growing concern in various jurisdictions. It is especially prevalent in California. The rising cases have seen law enforcement officers and prosecutors aggressively pursue crimes against intimate partners. One of these crimes is corporal injury on a spouse. It is common for prosecutors and law enforcement officers to overlook key facts that prove detrimental for you if you face corporal injury on a spouse charges in Anaheim. An experienced criminal attorney can present a solid defense with the ultimate aim of reduced charges, if not an outright dismissal of the case. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are ready to do that.
Understanding Corporal Injury on a Spouse
California law, PC 273.5, defines corporal injury on a spouse as a crime. It further details key elements prosecutors need to prove and the penalties a conviction will lead to.
Deliberately inflicting physical injury on an intimate partner, current or former, resulting in a traumatic condition is a violation of PC 273.5. This definition contains three key issues that need to be proven for a conviction. Failure to which, prosecutors will have no case against you.
- Willful action that caused the physical injury
- A traumatic condition, a consequence of the physical injury
- Your victim is an intimate partner, current or former
Prosecutors must demonstrate that you acted deliberately, willfully, or on purpose. However, prosecutors need not prove that you intended to break the law, hurt your victim, or gain an advantage. Your actions will be analyzed against the acts of a reasonable person in a similar situation. The question to be answered is, “What would a reasonable person do?”
In addressing intent or willful action, it must be clear that a reasonable person would have known taking action on another would have resulted in physical injury and a traumatic condition.
For example, following their divorce, Jake is upset with his ex-wife Patricia. Jake learns that Patricia is seeking full custody of their children. He decides to confront Patricia, ends up pushing her on the front steps of her house. Patricia breaks her ankle in the process.
Although Jake did intentionally push Patricia, he did not intend to break her ankle. The push is enough to prove his guilt under this section.
Any physical injury or wound resulting from the direct application of physical force is a traumatic condition. The physical harm, however, does not need to be severe. A minor injury will be enough to prove your guilt under this section. Some of the injuries considered in these cases include concussions, broken bones, internal bleeding, bruising, sprains, and wounds resulting from strangulation or suffocation.
Prosecutors must show that the traumatic condition was a probable and natural consequence of the injury you inflicted. Additionally, it must be evident that the harm was substantial or a direct cause of the traumatic condition and that it would not have occurred without the injury.
You can only be convicted of corporal injury on a spouse chares if the victim is a current or former intimate partner. You must share an intimate relationship with them. Intimacy is shared or expressed with a spouse, fiancé, a cohabiting boyfriend or girlfriend, parent of your child, or someone you are in a serious dating relationship with.
For clarity, serious dating relationships entail frequent associations characterized by sexual involvement and affection, independent of financial consideration. Cohabitation, on the other hand, describes relationships where the partners live together. Further, you both have sexual encounters while living together, co-own property, or jointly use the property or share income and expenses. For purposes of domestic violence law, cohabitants are not limited to two parties. You can live with more than two parties at a time.
Intimate relationships have a longevity aspect. That means that the length of your relationship also matters and will be addressed in your case.
The Difference Between Corporal Injury on a Spouse and Domestic Violence
Corporal injury on a spouse involves inflicting harm on an intimate partner. Domestic violence, on the other hand, does not require physical harm for a conviction. Threats of harm or actions that do not result in injury to the victim but cause distress or non-physical hurt could open the door for a domestic violence charge. It, therefore, follows that the penalties for corporal injury on a spouse are more severe than those issued for domestic violence offenses. The penalties under PC 273.5 could include sentence enhancements.
Additionally, a PC 273.5 violation is an offense against an intimate partner, whereas victims of domestic violence offenses include intimate partners, children, and elders. Therefore, domestic violence encompasses several crimes that involve abuse, battery, neglect, or threats against an intimidate spouse, children, or elders.
The common domestic violence offenses include:
- Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1))
- Child neglect (PC 270)
- Child endangerment (PC 273a)
- Child abuse (PC 273d)
- Elder abuse (PC 368)
- Criminal threats (PC 422)
- Damaging a phone line (PC 591)
- Aggravated trespass (PC 601)
- Stalking (PC 646.9)
- Revenge porn (PC 647(j)(4))
- Posting harmful content directed at a particular individual on the internet. It is also referred to as indirect electronic harassment (PC 653.2)
Penalties a Conviction for Corporal Injury On A Spouse Attracts
PC 273.5 violations are wobbler offenses. Prosecutors have the discretion of pursuing misdemeanor or felony offenses. They will consider your criminal history, facts of the case, the severity of the injuries on the victim, and any history of domestic violence or aggressive behavior.
Misdemeanor violations are punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a fine not exceeding $6,000. Alternatively, you could be sentenced to summary probation instead of jail. Felony penalties include two, three, or four years in prison and a fine o up to $6,000. The judge, too, can issue formal probation terms as an alternative to prison time.
Any prior convictions attract heftier penalties. Under this section, the offense is a wobbler, even if the prior conviction was for assault or domestic violence. Judges consider the following prior convictions in their sentencing decision. You should have been convicted of:
- Battery on a spouse, PC 243(e)
- Sexual battery, PC 243.4
- Assault/battery resulting in serious bodily injury, PC 243(d),
- Assault/battery with a caustic chemical PC 244,
- Assault with a stun gun, PC 244.5,
- Assault with a deadly weapon, PC 245, or
- Corporal injury on a spouse, PC 273.5, seven years before your current corporal injury on a spouse conviction
If you were convicted of battery on a spouse within seven years prior, your felony penalties for corporal injury on a spouse increase to 2, 3, or 4 years in prison. Additionally, you will part with $10,000 in fines.
If the prior convictions are any of the above-listed offenses other than battery on a spouse, your felony penalties increase to 2, 4, or 5 years in prison. Additionally, you will pay a fine of $10,000.
Inflicting corporal injury resulting in significant physical injury on a spouse will attract sentence enhancements under PC 12022.7. The judge will add three, four, or five years to your prison sentence. You will serve these terms consecutively.
Additional Penalties for a PC 273.5 Violation
A PC 273.5 conviction affects your immigration status, gun rights, and subsequent conviction penalties in addition to time behind bars and fines.
Corporal injury on a spouse is a deportable offense. In some instances, the crime can be classified as a CMIT, a crime involving moral turpitude, or an aggravated felony. All these classifications adversely impact the immigration status of non-citizens. If convicted, therefore, you’ll be deported and be denied entry back to the country, eliminate any possibility of becoming a US citizen, and be denied the right to apply for an adjustment of status or apply for a green card.
As for gun use and ownership, you lose all rights for life if convicted. That means if you are found to have been using a gun, in possession of one, or still retain previously owned firearms, prosecutors will introduce felony charges against you.
Additionally, corporal injury on an intimate partner with significant physical injury as a factor in the case is a strikeable offense under California’s Three Strike’s law. A conviction will result in a strike on your record. Therefore, your sentences for any subsequent felony convictions will be enhanced. A second strike will result to double the penalties issued or the current crime. If you have two prior strikes on your record, you will face twenty-five years to life for the present felony conviction.
Probation is an alternative punishment as opposed to jail or prison time. It is issued for misdemeanor convictions, summary probation, or for felony convictions, formal probation. Summary probation lasts for one to three years, while formal probation lasts for three to five years.
The judge exercises his/her discretion when issuing probation terms.
Your defense attorney can draw the judge’s attention to some facts to move the judge to consider a lighter sentence, probation being one of them. These factors are referred to as mitigating factors.
There’s no set limit of the issues your attorney can present as mitigating factors. However, these are the more common issues raised:
- You have no criminal history.
- You committed the crime under significant emotional stress, for example, stress caused by loss of a job, pilling financial burdens, or loss of clients.
- You are genuinely remorseful for your actions.
- You have underlying mental health issues that provide context for your actions.
Probations have set conditions you have to comply with. They include:
- Pay a fine
- Pay up to $5,000 to a battered woman’s shelter
- Complete community service
- Pay restitution to the victim to reimburse him/her for counseling or other reasonable expenses accrued following the injury.
- Not violating any laws.
- Attending a domestic violence class. It is a 52-week program
- Serve a minimum jail term — 15 days if you have a prior conviction in the past seven years for domestic violence or assault. If you have two or more priors for domestic violence or assault offenses, you will have to spend 60 days in jail.
- Comply with terms issued in a restraining or protective order.
If you violate the conditions detailed in your probation, the judge will schedule a probation violation hearing. If the probation violation is proven, the judge could continue the probation as was, impose harsher conditions, or revoke your probation, in which the jail or prison terms will be reinstated.
Defending Against Corporal Injury on a Spouse
Incarceration has far-reaching implications. At face value, prison time and fines are the apparent consequences. However, a criminal record will affect other areas of your life even after you have done your time. This, therefore, increases the significance of an attorney, who wil invest time and resources in your defense.
Defense strategies vary depending on the circumstances in the case. However, some of the common defenses used in corporal injury on a spouse case include:
Self-defense of in Defense of Others
Self-defense, as a legal defense, only applies if the following are true:
- You reasonably believed that you or another were in immediate danger of physical injury.
- You reasonably believed that the use of immediate force was necessary to defend yourself or another against the perceived threat.
- You used no more force beyond what was reasonably necessary for defense against the danger.
If your attorney successfully proves that your intimate partner posed a threat to you or another, the logical and natural consequence was you defending yourself or another. Therefore, the self-defense argument will hold, and you will not be found guilty of corporal injury on a spouse.
Lack of Willullness in Causing the Injury to an Intimate Partner
Willful action or intent to inflict injury on an intimate partner is pivotal in proving your guilt. However, the lack of it rules the whole situation as accidental and unfortunate. This situation is enough to dismiss the case against you.
Injuries inflicted on a spouse are too common, especially when the partners engage in a heated argument. They are caused accidentally or inadvertently. However, they are interpreted as intentional, thus informing the prosecutors’ decision to pursue charges under PC 273.5.
Volatility is quite common in most Intimate relationships. The rising tension and emotions often result in thoughtless or at-the-moment actions like accusing an intimate partner of inflicting injury. In most cases, the accusations are out of anger, resentment, need for revenge, or a desire to control.
California’s law enforcement officers take accusations of violence of another party seriously. As a result, you will be arrested based on the false allegation.
Defense attorneys employ the following approaches to fight the baseless allegations:
- Conduct a thorough background check on your initiate partner (the accuser), and any alleged witnesses
- Subpoenaing your intimate partner’s text messages, emails, and social media accounts
- Interviewing your accuser, co-worker, friends, associates, online contacts, and his/her family
All these help unearth the truth. More often than not, the investigations determine an accuser’s hidden agenda. When this is determined, the prosecutor’s only choice is to drop the charges.
Possible Intoxication or Mental Health Issues
Proving intent or deliberate action is admitting to control of your mental state. Intoxication and mental health issues rob individuals of the capacity to make conscious decisions. Therefore, if you were intoxicated at the time of the incident or had a mental breakdown before hurting your accuser, it can be argued that you were not capable of making a conscious decision. Hence, your actions were not deliberate. This argument is enough to create reasonable doubt and, as such, dismiss your case.
Note, trials have two possible outcomes, a dismissal or a conviction. The common misconception is that hiring legal representation guarantees a dismissal. This is not always the case. A criminal attorney’s input increases the odds at either an acquittal or reduced sentence.
In their pursuit of the best possible outcome, attorneys may seek a fair result without trial. However, if prosecutors remain uncooperative, a trial wil be in your best interest.
What Happens if Your Accuser Fails to Testify
It is not uncommon for accusers to recant their allegations or decide not to testify. However, their changed position does not mean prosecutors will drop the charges. Here are a few scenarios to consider and what they may mean for your case.
Your Accuser Decides to Drop the Charges
When an accuser has a change of heart and does not want to press charges, it doesn’t mean your charges are automatically dropped. The assumption prosecutors make is that the complaining witness (your accuser) was either intimidated, coerced, or threatened to drop the charges or that he/she was emotionally manipulated by the defendant. However, it is not always the case.
This situation creates a window for your legal defense team to push for favorable plea agreement terms. Alternatively, they can also push for dismissal if the remaining evidence is insufficient for a conviction.
Your Accuser Refuses to Testify in Cout
In some situations, your accuser may opt not to testify. Prosecutors will then result to issuing him/her a subpoena to compel him/her to testify. Your accuser may further decide not to honor the subpoena, in which case the judge will issue a bench warrant for his/her arrest.
The back and forth compromises the integrity of your accuser’s testimony. Your attorney can use it to your advantage. He/she can create reasonable doubt by making the jury question your accuser’s testimony.
Your Accuser Cannot Be Presented in Court
In some instances, your accuser or witnesses in the case may flee the jurisdiction or go into hiding. They, therefore, cannot be presented in court to corroborate their testimony. In such instances, prosecutors will have to drop the cases because of the hearsay rule.
As per Evidence Code 1200(a), Hearsay evidence is any secondhand statement made by any other individual other than the witness on the record to prove the statement that was said to be true.
It, therefore, follows that a witnesses’ out-of-court statement will be excluded as evidence in a case because the defendant cannot cross-examine the opposing witnesses.
Record Sealing and Expungement in Corporal Injury on a Spouse
Record sealing is a legal option you can use to eliminate all records of your arrest from appearing in background checks as a matter of right. This option is available if:
- Criminal charges were filed but subsequently dismissed
- No criminal charges were filed
- You were acquitted or found not guilty in a jury trial, or
- Your conviction was vacated or overturned on appeal
However, if there is a pattern of abuse owing to previous convictions or a history of arrest or domestic violence, child or elder abuse, you will be disqualified as a record sealing candidate. A pattern is established if you have two or more convictions or north of five arrests within three years. Nonetheless, a judge may seal your record if he/she is satisfied that doing so serves the interest of justice.
An expungement, on the other hand, is a post-conviction relief under PC 1203.4. It relieves you of the penalties and disabilities a conviction results in. It is good news, especially because you can retain your professional license and avoid the conviction stigma many experiences after facing criminal charges, among others. To qualify, you must:
- Complete your probation, either the summary or formal probation
- You presently are charged with a criminal offense, serving probation for a criminal offense, or serving a sentence for a criminal offense (i.e., serving a jail or prison term).
Expungement of your records means that employers or other interested parties that conduct background checks cannot use your criminal past to deny you opportunities or services.
Engage your attorney to best advise you on your options based on your case.
Get Personalized Criminal Defense Representation Near Me
The growing domestic violence cases in California have created the need for serious consideration of these cases by law enforcement officers prosecutors. A conviction for corporal injury on a spouse does have far-reaching effects on your life. It, therefore, is in your best interest to contact the California Criminal Lawyer Group if you face or are at risk of facing corporal injury on a spouse charge in Anaheim. Our team will invest their time and experience to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today at 714-766-0965.