Corporal injury on a spouse involves the willful act of inflicting physical harm on a cohabitant or intimate partner. The crime of corporal injury to a spouse attracts severe legal penalties after a conviction. However, the prosecution must be able to present relevant evidence and prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Although evidence of physical injury is key to obtaining a conviction, the injury does not have to be severe. Minor scratches can suffice under this statute.

Immediately you face an arrest and charges under this statute; you should be set on building a defense and avoiding the harsh consequences of a conviction. Hiring a competent lawyer to guide you through creating a defense against PC 273.5 charges will increase your chances of prevailing in the case. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have extensive knowledge and skill in defending against domestic violence charges. We serve clients seeking legal insight to fight PC 273.5 charges in Los Angeles, CA.

An Overview of PC 273.5

Corporal injury is the physical injury intentionally inflicted on another person, resulting in a traumatic condition. If the physical force or injury is directed towards an intimate partner, you could face criminal charges for corporal injury on a spouse under Section 273.5 of California PC. Many individuals confuse corporal injury on a spouse with domestic battery. Although both of these offenses fall under domestic violence, they are different.

Injury is the main difference between PC 273.5 and PC 243(e)(1). A conviction for domestic battery does not require evidence of injury. A Slight offensive touch can attract an arrest under this statute. On the other hand, physical injury is necessary for proving corporal injury to a spouse. When demonstrating your guilt for corporal injury to a cohabitant, the prosecutor must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You Willfully Inflicted Injury on another Person

The term willful is critical in the definition of this crime since you cannot be prosecuted for an accidental or unintentional injury. Additionally, the prosecutor must prove that you caused an injury to the alleged victim. The injury necessary to satisfy this element must directly result from the force you applied. If a victim suffers an injury when escaping from you, you cannot be charged with causing them harm.

  1. The Injury Resulted in a Traumatic Condition

For PC 273.5, a traumatic condition is any wound, including physical and internal damages. Even when the injury to the victim is minor, it can suffice as a traumatic condition under the following circumstances:

  • The injury was a natural and probable consequence of your actions.
  • The injury couldn’t exist if you didn’t apply physical force against the victim.
  • The application of force resulted in conditions such as suffocation, bruises, cuts, sprains, internal bleeding, and broken bones.

If this element is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you could face charges for simple battery, attempted corporal injury on a cohabitant, or assault. All these crimes do not require proof of physical injury.

  1. You Caused Injury to an Intimate Partner

A critical element that must be clear when establishing criminal liability for spousal abuse is that the alleged victim of your actions was a cohabitant or spouse. For this statute, a cohabitant is someone with whom you share a home and are in a long-term relationship similar to that of a married couple. The following conditions determine the nature of your relationship with the alleged victim:

  • You share financial responsibility.
  • You have consummated the relationship while living together
  • You share ownership of the residence
  • You have made statements that indicate the nature of your relationship
  • You share the parenting of a child

Some of the individuals who are considered intimate partners for this stature include:

  • Registered domestic partner
  • Fiancée
  • Spouse
  • Parent of your child
  • Line-in boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Someone with whom you have a sexual relationship

Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse in California

Violation of California PC 273.5 is a wobbler. This means that the crime can fall under misdemeanor or felony charges. The court has the discretion to determine the nature of your offense. Some of the factors that could affect how the offense is charged include:

  • The severity of the injuries on the alleged victim
  • Your criminal history
  • Other facts of your case

As a misdemeanor, corporal injury to a spouse attracts a one-year jail sentence and a $6,000 fine. Alongside the jail time and fines, the court could impose the following additional penalties:

  • Restitution. Victim restitution is the payment a defendant must offer to the victim to cover their injuries and other issues resulting from the act.
  • Counseling. After your conviction, the court may order that you attend 52 weeks of the batterer's program.
  • Protective order. The court may issue a domestic violence protective order against you for corporal injury to your cohabitant.

In cases where you caused severe injury to your intimate partner or are a repeat offender, the prosecution will file felony charges. A felony conviction for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse attracts these penalties:

  • Two to four years in state prison
  • A maximum of $6,000 in fines
  • Felony probation

Loss of Gun Rights

California has strict laws on firearms possession by individuals with felony convictions. Therefore, the court may impose a firearm ban for a lifetime if you face a felony conviction for inflicting injury on a spouse. Your gun rights will not be restored even when you expunge your felony conviction. Possession of a firearm as a felony is a crime that can attract a prison sentence.

Negative Immigration Consequences

A conviction for violent felonies and crimes of moral turpitude in California attracts serious immigration consequences. If you face a PC 273.5 conviction, you could face actions like deportation or inadmissibility. Being rendered inadmissible means losing the right to re-enter the United States once you leave. On the other hand, deportation is the forceful removal from the country.

Probation for Penal Code 273.5

When you are found guilty of inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant, probation could be part of your sentence. Probation is an alternative sentencing scheme that allows defendants to spend part of their jail or prison sentence on community service. The three primary purposes of probation in domestic violence cases include:

  • Protect the public
  • Restore the victims
  • Rehabilitate the offender

Probation can be formal or informal, depending on the nature of your conviction. The court imposes informal probation for defendants who face a misdemeanor conviction for violating PC 273.5. Often, misdemeanor probation lasts for a maximum of three years and is accompanied by the following conditions:

  • Attend a 52-week batterers program
  • Counseling
  • Community service
  • Payment of court fines and restitution
  • Serve part of your jail sentence

Felony probation lasts three to five years, and the probation conditions are harsher. Common formal probation conditions for spousal abuse include:

  • Mandatory reporting to a probation officer
  • Payment of victim restitution
  • Avoid criminal activity
  • Submit to random drug testing
  • Travel restrictions
  • Comply with a restraining order

Probation is beneficial because it keeps you out of jail. However, not all defendants facing charges for corporal injury are eligible for probation. The courts preserve this sentence for low-risk offenders and individuals with an insignificant criminal history. By agreeing to probation, you spend less or no time behind bars. However, violation of any of the probation terms can have severe consequences. Additionally, you will be tied to the court system longer.

Before seeking a probation sentence, you should discuss your options with your lawyer and determine if this sentence serves your best interests.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

After sentencing you to probation, jail time, or fines, the court may issue a restraining order against you after a conviction for corporal injury to a spouse. The court issues the domestic violence restraining order to protect the victim of domestic violence. If the court decides that the alleged victim is in immediate danger, they could give a temporary restraining order.

The temporary domestic violence restraining order remains in effect until the court reviews the factors surrounding the need for the order. At the permanent restraining order hearing, the court allows both sides to give their account of events. If the court finds reason to believe that the alleged victim is at risk, they will issue a permanent restraining order for several years. A domestic violence restraining order prohibits you from contacting the other party. Contact in this includes:

  • Sending messages or emails
  • Making phone calls to the other party
  • Social media interactions
  • Personal contact
  • Inflicting physical abuse

A violation of the restraining order is a violation of PC 273.6, which attracts a jail sentence and fines. Domestic violence restraining orders have serious consequences. If you live in the same house as the alleged victim, the court may order you to move out of the home. This cam affects your access to your children. When the court serves you with a temporary restraining order, you must appear in court to contest the imposition of a permanent order. Seeking legal guidance to battle the domestic violence restraining order is critical.

Legal Defense Against California PC 273.5 Charges

When you face charges for inflicting physical injury on a spouse or cohabitant, you can build your defense using the following arguments:

Self-Defense and Defense of Others

Self-defense is the right that each person has to protect themselves against a potentially dangerous situation. When you believe that another person is attempting to harm you, you are entitled to react to how you feel and protect your best. Therefore, you can argue that the alleged victim was injured when you tried to defend yourself. The self-defense argument is often compelling in many domestic violence cases. However, you must establish the following facts when using the defense:

  • You reasonably believed that you or another person was at risk of significant bodily injury.
  • You believed your actions were necessary to protect yourself or another individual from harm.
  • You use a force that was only necessary to protect yourself and not harm the individual.

False Accusations

Most domestic violence cases are based on false allegations. Jealousy, anger, and strained relationships can prompt your spouse or intimate partner to accuse you of the crime falsely. When battling for spousal support and child custody in family and divorce courts, some individuals use false allegations to seek an upper hand. A skilled domestic violence attorney can investigate your case and uncover any hidden reasons for bringing false accusations.

The Injury was Accidental

One of the elements that make up the crime of corporal injury on a spouse is willful acts. Therefore, if a person’s injury was accidental, you cannot be found guilty under PC 273.5. Since the intent is challenging for the prosecution to establish, you have a higher chance of avoiding a conviction by using this defense.

Insufficient Evidence

Before facing a conviction for spousal abuse, the prosecution must prove the crime's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Establishing the elements of PC 273.5 requires evidence of your actions and specific intent. Especially in cases where there is no evidence of substantial physical injury, you can argue that the prosecution does not have enough evidence against you.


Another possible defense against spousal abuse charges is arguing that the alleged victim consented to the act that resulted in injury. However, this defense will be viable if you present evidence indicating that you were involved in a sporting or sexual activity.

Mutual Combat

It is not uncommon for domestic arguments and struggles to turn physical from both parties. If the alleged victim sustained an injury due to mutual combat, you could use this as a viable defense for your case.


The evidence used to prove your intent to harm your spouse or cohabitant is often circumstantial. If you can prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the act, you will argue that you lacked the mental capacity to form a specific intent.

Offenses Related to Corporal Injury on a Spouse

Some offenses that are related to a corporal injury on a cohabitant include:

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse involves emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an individual over sixty-five years. The elements required to prove liability for elder abuse vary depending on whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges.

However, the prosecution must show that your criminal negligence endangered the elder or caused them to suffer significant bodily injury. Additionally, failing to provide for the needs of an elder under your case could attract charges for elder abuse under CPC 368.

Elder abuse is punishable by:

  • A misdemeanor elder abuse conviction will see you spend a year in jail, while a felony conviction attracts up to four years in state prison. If the elder suffers serious bodily injury, your prison sentence is increased to seven years.
  • Elder abuse attracts $6,000 for a misdemeanor and $10,000 for a felony.
  • Victim restitution.

Criminal Threats

A threat is the willful expression of an intent to harm another person and is a coercion tool. Threatening or intimidating another person is unacceptable in modern society. If you willfully act in a way that causes another person fear for their safety, you could be charged with criminal threats under PC 422. The following elements are vital in establishing liability under this statute:

  1. You Threatened to Injure or Kill Someone

The first element that must be clear when seeking prosecution under this statute is that you threatened to cause serious bodily injury or death to someone else. A threat could be either verbal, written, or sent through electronic communication. A guess interpreted as a threat cannot suffice under PC 422.

  1. The Alleged Victim Understood your Communication as a Threat

You do not violate PC 422 unless the recipient of your communication interprets it as a threat and fears for their safety. Under this statute, there are three concepts to fear:

  • The victim felt actual fear
  • The fear was reasonable
  • The fear was sustained

In California, issuing criminal threats is a wobbler. The court can charge you with a felon or a misdemeanor at its discretion. Criminal threats as a misdemeanor will see you spend a year in jail. On the other hand, a felony conviction attracts a maximum of three years in prison. Some essential details on sentencing for making criminal threats include:

  • When a deadly weapon is used to communicate a threat, the court imposes an additional one-year sentence
  • If you make separate criminal threats to multiple individuals, the court could try you and convict you for each count
  • A felony conviction for criminal threats is a strike under California's three strikes law

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery is the willful use of force against a cohabitant, intimate partner, or parent of your minor child. Unlike corporal injury in a spouse, evidence of physical injury is not necessary to prove your guilt for domestic battery. Domestic battery laws are addressed under CPC 243(e)(1) and have the following elements of the crime:

  • You willfully touched another person offensively. With a domestic battery charge, the prosecutor only needs to show that your contact with the alleged victim was offensive. Slight touching using a foreign object may be a violation under this statute.
  • The person was an intimate partner. You would commit a domestic battery if the victim of your offensive touching were an intimate partner, cohabitant, or child's parent.
  • Your action was not motivated by self-defense.

A violation of CPC 243(e)(1) attracts a misdemeanor charge. The crime is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and a $2,000 fine. Sometimes, the court may send you to probation and mandate that you attend a batterers program.

Child Abuse

Child abuse is one of the most severe domestic violence crimes involving inflicting injury or corporal punishment on a minor. If you harm your child in the middle of your fights with your spouse, you can face criminal charges for corporal injury to a spouse and child abuse. Additionally, unstable family relations could cause emotional abuse to the minor.

The prosecution proves your violation of PC 273(d) laws by showing how you caused unjustifiable harm to a child, resulting in a traumatic condition. Additionally, it must be clear that you were not disciplining the child. Child abuse attracts severe legal consequences if you face a felony or misdemeanor charge.

Disturbing Peace

Under California PC 415, disturbing peace involves acts such as fighting in public. Use of offensive language and making excessive noise. Where there is no sufficient evidence of injury or intent to cause injury to your spouse, the court could reduce your PC 273.5 charge to disturbing peace. A conviction for disturbing the peace is based on three factors:

  • Unlawful fighting. The prosecutor must prove that you fought another person in public. However, defending yourself against a dangerous situation is not considered fighting in public.
  • Unreasonable noise. Making unnecessary noise that disturbs other people can attract a PC 415 conviction.
  • Offensive Language. Another way you can violate laws to disturb the peace is by using offensive language to others in public.

Compared to domestic violence, disturbing peace is a minor offense. The prosecution can file a misdemeanor or infraction charge under PC 415. Primarily, a conviction for disturbing the peace will not result in jail time.

Find a Skilled Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you willfully inflict injury on a domestic partner, you risk facing an arrest and charges for corporal injury on a spouse. Under California PC 273.5, corporal injury to a spouse is one of the most severe forms of domestic violence. The stakes are high if you are cited for violating this statute. A conviction for inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant may result in lengthy jail times, hefty fines, and domestic violence restraining orders. The aftermath of a domestic violence charge is a ruined reputation and strained family relationships.

For this reason, you must have a qualified domestic violence defense lawyer to handle the investigations and defense against your charges. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we understand the weight and effects of a domestic violence charge in your life. Our skilled lawyers will offer you top-notch legal guidance to ensure the best possible case outcome. If you or your loved one faces criminal charges under PC 273.5 in Los Angeles, CA, you will need our legal expertise. Contact us at 424-333-0943.