Domestic violence is a common offense in many households. According to PEN 273.5, it is a crime for a spouse to inflict physical injuries on their partner or spouse willingly. Inflicting corporal injury means causing any physical harm to your partner, whether small or significant. The law clearly states that a person that inflicts corporal injury to their partner or spouse that results in a condition that can be traumatic is guilty of a felony. The penalties, if one is convicted of this offense, are severe. They include prison sentences in addition to other fines. If your spouse institutes charges against you for this offense, you need to get a lawyer to defend you. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we are committed and passionate in defending our clients against domestic violence allegations.

Defining Corporal Injury According to the Law

The laws on causing corporal harm to an intimate partner or spouse are found under PEN 273.5. A person is accused of violating PEN 273.5 if:

  • They willfully or intentionally inflicted physical harm to their partner
  • The partner in question is your former or current partner
  • The bodily injuries caused resulted in your partner suffering a traumatic condition.

To fully understand what these elements mean, it is essential to understand the various terms used to define the offense and its meaning. These terms include:


An individual is said to act willfully when they intentionally do a thing. This does not require the person to have had an intention to violate the law. For instance, a former couple may be arguing about the custody of their child. In the process, the man grabs his ex-partner’s hand forcefully, causing it to dislocate. He may not have intended for that to happen, but he acted willingly. This act can result in their partner filling charges against him on inflicting corporal injury on her.

Traumatic Condition

When a person gets wounded or suffers from a bodily injury due to force used on their body, it defines a traumatic condition. The condition can be minor or severe, as long as there is an injury. Various injuries inflicted on a spouse or intimate partner can be described as traumatic conditions. These conditions may include internal bleeding, a broken bone, bruises, sprains, concussions, or injuries from strangulation.

Physical Force Should be the Cause of the Traumatic Condition

For a person to be convicted of violating PEN 273.5, the prosecution must establish that the defendant acted in a manner that resulted in the alleged victim suffering a traumatic condition. This condition is said to be arising from injury if:

  • The condition naturally resulted from the inflicted injuries
  • The condition was as a result of substantial and direct injuries to the victim
  • Without injuries, there would be no traumatic condition.

Who is an Intimate Partner According to the Law

Violating of PEN 273.5 needs a person to inflict injuries to their intimate partner. The law recognizes an intimate partner as a former or current spouse, fiancé, cohabitant, domestic partner, or a parent to your child.

The law describes various scenarios that determine if a couple is cohabiting as partners. These include:

  • The parties are involved in a sexual relationship while they live under the same roof
  • The parties share their expenses and income
  • The parties jointly own or use a property
  • The individuals show themselves as being in a committed relationship
  • The individuals show that there is continuity in their relationship
  • The time the parties have been in a relationship

Penalties for Violating PEN 273.5

Inflicting corporal injuries to your partner is a wobbler offense in the state of California. When the charges are brought up against you, you can be prosecuted on felony or misdemeanor charges. For a prosecutor to decide how to prosecute you, they consider various things. Some of these are:

  • The facts or circumstances of the offense
  • The criminal history of the defendant.
  • How severe the injuries inflicted are on the victim
  • There have been prior complaints on domestic violence against the defendant

When you are prosecuted on misdemeanor charges and are convicted of causing corporal injury to your spouse, the penalties are severe. You will likely be sentenced to a county jail time not exceeding a year. Additionally, you may be asked to pay a fine not exceeding $6,000 or either. In some cases, the judge can opt to sentence you to misdemeanor probation as opposed to serving time in jail.

If the charges brought against you were prosecuted as a felony, the penalties are more severe. You will likely be jailed in the state prison for two or three or four years. Additionally, you may be required to pay a fine not exceeding $6,000, or either. Sometimes, the judge will feel that serving formal probation is suitable for justice at the time.

Penalties with Prior Felony Convictions

Even with previous convictions on domestic violence, violations for PEN 273.5 remain wobbler offenses. However, if convicted of a felony with a previous felony conviction within the last seven years, the penalties increase. Some prior felony convictions that may result in increased sentencing include:

  • Having been convicted of a felony for violating PEN 273.5
  • Having a previous felony conviction on assault that resulted in severe bodily injury, PEN 243d
  • Having been convicted of a felony for using caustic chemical PEN 244 in battery
  • A previous felony conviction for using a stun gun to assault PEN 244.5
  • A prior felony conviction for violating PEN 254 using a dangerous weapon to assault
  • Previous felony convictions for violating PEN 243.4 sexual assault
  • A previous felony conviction for violating PEN 243e on spousal battery

When your prior felony conviction was on spousal battery PEN 243e, the penalties for inflicting corporal injury to your partner will increase. You will likely be sentenced to two or three or four years of imprisonment in state prison. Also, you may be required to add a fine not exceeding $10,000 or either.

Apart from a previous felony conviction of spousal battery, prior felony conviction of any of the other listed offenses will also affect your sentencing. You will likely be sentenced to two or four or five years in state prison. Additionally, you may be asked to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000 or either.

Corporal Injury Resulting in Great Bodily Harm Sentence Enhancement– PEN 12022.7

When a person inflicts corporal injury to their intimate partner that results in significant bodily injury, they will face enhanced sentencing under PEN 12022.7. The statute defines this as causing substantial injuries to your partner physically. When this is the case, PEN 12022.7 adds more years to your prison time that is served consecutively. The defendant can, therefore, have their jail sentences increased with either 3 or 4 or 5 years.

PEN 273.5 Probation

The judges in California have the discretion to decide against imposing a jail sentence and instead of giving the accused probation. Depending on if the charges were felony or misdemeanor, two types of possible probation can be imposed.

Summary or misdemeanor probation usually lasts one to three years. Formal or felony probation typically last longer. They range between three and five years. Sometimes it may call for the defendant to serve a county jail time of a year. Probation is not always given, but for first-time offenders, it is considered. However, even with probation, the accused is expected to fulfill certain conditions.

Conditions for Probation

To stay out of prison on probation, felony and misdemeanor defendants must comply with various conditions set forth by the court. These will include:

  • Ensuring full payment of fine
  • The defendant must pay restitution to the victim and compensate them for the expenses they incurred going for counseling
  • Contributing to the shelter for battered women $5,000
  • Enrolling and attending classes for 52 weeks on domestic violence
  • Engaging in and completing Caltrans roadside works or community service duties
  • Avoiding violating any other laws
  • Obeying a protective order prohibiting them from getting in touch with their accuser for ten years.
  • Serving minimum imprisonment of 15 days with a prior domestic violence conviction within the last seven years, or two months if with two prior convictions.

Consequences of Violating Probation

When a defendant disregards any conditions set forth in the probation, a hearing for violating the probation is set. Should the allegations for violating the probation be proved, the court can decide to:

  • Proceed with the probation as previously stated
  • Institute new and stricter conditions to the probation
  • Jail the defendant to serve their sentence by revoking the probation.

The consequences of violating PEN 273.5 are more severe on a person seeking immigration. Inflicting injuries on your spouse is a grave crime under the immigration law. When a person is accused of this and is an immigrant, they can face deportation.

Some situations may have the offense meet the requirements of a crime involving moral turpitude (CMIT) or/and aggravated felony. These types of crimes are termed as inadmissible crimes with various severe consequences such as:

  • Prohibiting one from re-entering the country once they have left
  • Losing the probability of getting a US citizenship
  • Losing the privilege of applying for citizenship through a green card and changing from an illegal immigrant to a legal one.

When Violating PEN 273.5 becomes a Strike Offense

When a violation of PEN 273.5 results in the victim suffering significant bodily injuries, it is classified as a serious felony as well as a strike according to the laws on three strikes in California.

A serious or severe felony conviction that is later followed by another felony conviction will make the defendant be considered as a second striker. When you are termed as a second-time striker, your sentence is usually two times more than the usual penalty required under the law. Should the defendant have two strikes on previous offenses, a felony conviction will result in them serving 25 years minimum to life imprisonment.

Possible Legal Defenses

When you are accused of inflicting corporal injuries to your intimate partner, it is essential to consult a lawyer immediately. If you are convicted of the offense, the penalties are severe and might lead to severe consequences. Fortunately, your lawyer is able to defend you using some of the following defenses:


Your lawyer can argue that you were trying to protect yourself from possible harm from the alleged victim, or you were defending others from the victim. This defense strategy would only work if:

  • The defendant had reason to believe they were in danger of bodily harm or another person was in danger
  • According to the defendant, he or she thought they needed to use force to defend themselves against the potential threat
  • There was no use of unnecessary force by the defendant in defending themselves

The Defendant Lacked Willfulness

Under PEN 273.5, a person is found guilty of this offense if they willfully inflict injuries to their intimate partner. This means an injury may occur while people are arguing and out of an accident. If this is the case, it is not sufficient to convict the defendant.

Under this situation, it is possible to get the case dismissed or dropped to a lesser charge like domestic battery PEN 243e.

False Accusations

Law enforcement in California takes domestic violence allegations very seriously. Because of this, often, people are falsely accused, resulting in wrongful arrests and prosecutions. One partner can initiate the accusations due to jealousy, anger, or a need for revenge. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer, one is able to fight these allegations through:

  • Subpoenaing the text messages, emails and social media accounts of the alleged victim
  • Interviewing with the alleged victim, their friends and family, colleagues and social media friends
  • Carrying a detailed background check to establish the character of the alleged victim and their witnesses

Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is essential. One can get a favorable resolution in some cases that will not result in a trial that may be lengthy and costly. However, if the prosecutor or the alleged victim refuses to cooperate, a trial may be a better option for the defendant.

When a Victim of Domestic Violence Refuses to Cooperate

In most cases on domestic violence, the alleged victim may refuse to give a testimony of the events or decides to recant their accusations. Unfortunately, the prosecutor may still choose to continue with the case regardless. Various scenarios are often encountered during such a trial and have a different meaning for the defendant. Some of these scenarios are:

When the Victim Decides to Drop the Charges

Often during a hearing, the alleged victim may choose to drop the charges against the defendant. However, prosecutors often believe the accuser is dropping the charges because:

  • They are receiving threats or coercion from the defendant
  • They are under emotional manipulation from the defendant

When this is the case, the prosecutor may opt to continue with the charges against the defendant. However, with a reluctant victim, it becomes challenging to prosecute the case effectively.

When the Alleged Victim Refuses to Give Testimony in Court

There are times a victim of corporal injury refuses to give testimony in court. However, the prosecutor may use their power to subpoena the victim to testify whether they want to or not. The prosecutor personally serves the accuser with the subpoena, and if they remain adamant, the judge issues a warrant of arrest.

When the Victim Cannot Attend Court

There are times that an alleged victim or a witness on a case on a corporal injury cannot attend court. The accuser or witness may have fled because they do not want to testify or are hiding from the jurisdiction. When this happens, the prosecutor may find it better not to prosecute the case but instead drops it.

The law prohibits the use of out of court statements from a witness. This is because the defendant has a right to cross-examine the witness on the alleged accusations. A statement out of court is considered hearsay evidence, and it is not admissible in court. This, therefore, means that if the alleged victim is not able to be brought to court, the charges will fall apart, and the case dismissed.

Other Related Corporal Injury Offenses

Various domestic violence crimes can be charged alongside or in place of corporal injury to a spouse. Some of these charges will include:

Domestic Battery PEN 243e

The law on domestic battery in California prohibits a person from touching their partner offensively or harmfully. This is a lesser offense to that of corporal injury offense found under PEN 273.5.

Compared to corporal injury offense, an offense in a domestic battery will not require sustaining injuries by the victim. When a person is accused of domestic battery offenses, the charges are prosecuted as a misdemeanor. If one is convicted of domestic battery, they are likely to face a county jail time of not more than a year in addition to or either a fine not exceeding $2,000.

Sometimes, a judge can sentence the defendant to probation as long as they complete a treatment program for batterers, among other conditions. Most of the time, a charge in the domestic battery is used for the reduction of the charges or as a plea bargain for defendants facing PEN 273.5 violations.

Disturbing Peace PEN 415

According to PEN 415, it is a crime to:

  • Publicly fight with another person
  • Make unnecessary loud noise causing disturbance to others
  • Use words that are provocative towards another in a public place

There are many times a prosecutor may prefer to reduce charges on domestic violence to those of disturbing peace. If this happens, it is an excellent advantage for the person accused violating PEN 273.5 due to the following reasons:

  • Violations of PEN 415 do not carry a stigma, severe penalties or consequences for an immigrant
  • A charge of disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor of the low level that has a non-criminal infraction.

If one gets convicted of this offense, the maximum penalties will include jail time of three months or/and a fine not exceeding $400.

Elder Abuse PEN 368

The elder abuse laws of California make it illegal to:

  • Intentionally and with negligence
  • Inflict physical or mental pain on an individual for no justifiable reason
  • That is over the age of 65 years

This means that if the spouse or partner of the defendant is 65 years or older, an accused person can also be prosecuted with one or both of the following:

  • Willfully inflicting corporal injury to their intimate partner PEN 273.5
  • Abuse of the elderly under PEN 368.

Violations of PEN 368 can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor offenses. If a felony conviction is arrived at, the defendant risks state imprisonment for 2 or 3 or 4 years. Additionally, they may be required to pay a fine not exceeding $6,000 or either. If the accuser suffers from great bodily harm or death as a result of the abuse, the penalties increase.

If the charges brought against you are prosecuted as a misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to a county jail time of not more than six months. Subsequently, you may be required to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000 or either.

Laws on Child Abuse in California

Laws on child abuse go together with those on domestic violence offenses. When a defendant is alleged of intentionally inflicting corporal injury to their spouse, and they have children, he or she may face child endangerment charges. If you are accused of violating PEN 273a, the prosecution will be on misdemeanor charges. However, if the child was put in danger of death or injury, the offense will be prosecuted as a felony.

Finding a Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Charges of inflicting corporal injury to your intimate partner attracts severe penalties. A conviction means a person may be spending a lengthy period in jail and having a criminal record. Many accusations leveled against defendants are without merit and based on malice, jealousy, or anger. Without a good defense lawyer, you risk being convicted of this serious offense. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have extensive experience in helping our clients fight these serious allegations. Get in touch with us today at 714-740-7878, and let us fight these allegations for you.