Disagreements in relationships are not unique to many people, primarily because of the emotional involvement between the parties. California has set out laws that protect spouses or intimate partners from being injured by their partners. According to PEN 273.5, it is a crime to inflict physical injuries on an intimate partner or spouse in California. When a disagreement or conflict occurs between spouses or their intimate partners, one can accuse the other of inflicting injuries on them. Allegations of this manner are prosecuted as felony offenses and will carry severe penalties. This makes it crucial to hire a criminal defense lawyer to defend you against these allegations. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm are here to represent you if you are facing charges of corporal injury on a spouse in Los Angeles.
Understanding PEN 273.5 Corporal Injury on a Spouse
The law defines corporal injury as any infliction of physical pain on another person and causing injuries. When one is accused of violating PEN 273.5, it means they have inflicted injuries on their spouse or intimate partner, regardless of how severe the injuries are. In domestic battery against a spouse, actual injuries are not required for one to be convicted of the crime. However, in PEN 273.5 violations, there must be real injuries.
The relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant must be an intimate one. An intimate partner includes:
- The spouse of the defendant or their former spouse
- Either the present or former domestic partner of the defendant
- A previous or current cohabitant to the defendant
- An old or current fiancé to the defendant
- Any person the defendant had or has a serious relationship with or
- The parent of a defendant’s child
Various factors are used to determine an intimate partner. These are:
- If the two people engage in a sexual relationship while they share their residence
- When the parties share their expenses as well as their income
- When the parties own property together and use it jointly
- The parties carry themselves and declare they are in a stable and serious relationship
- The relationship has continuity
- How long the relationship has been going on
Any situation that leaves an intimate partner with severe or minor injuries inflicted by their partner can be defined as a violation of PEN 273.5.
A person is found to violate PEN 273.5 when:
- They willfully or willingly inflict physical injuries on
- A former or current intimate partner or spouse and
- The injuries resulted in traumatic conditions
To understand this statute, you should understand how specific terms relating to the violations or concepts described under the penal code.
Willfully according to PEN 273.5
A person is said to act willfully when they do things intentionally. A willful intent does not require the person to have planned violating the law. For instance, in a heated argument between a couple, the man may grab the woman’s hand to scare her, but unfortunately, he ends up causing injuries to her. This means he carried out the act willfully but did not intend to cause injuries to the partner.
When an injury to the body or a wound is inflicted, it is defined as a traumatic condition. The injuries or would be as a result of the defendant applying unnecessary force on the partner. Regardless of how small or big the wound is, the important thing is that an injury was caused.
Some of the conditions described as traumatic include:
- Breaking a bone on your partner or causing a fracture
- Striking your spouse that they suffer a concussion
- Punching your partner so hard that they experience internal bleeding
- Twisting your partner’s limb until you sprain it
- Squeezing your partner until bruises form on their body or
- Struggling and suffocating your partner until you injure them
As earlier stated, any of the above must be a result of one partner or spouse inflicting direct force on the other spouse. To be convicted of violating PEN 273.5, the prosecution must demonstrate that the actions by the defendant are the reason the alleged victim suffered the said traumatic conditions. These conditions are said to be as a result of injuries if:
- Because of the injuries, a traumatic situation naturally resulted
- The injuries were the substantial and direct reason for the condition and
- The presence of the injury is what led in the condition
Penalties for Corporal Injury on a Spouse
PEN 273.5 violations are a wobbler offense in California. A wobbler means that the crime is prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision on how to pursue it is left to the prosecutor, who considers some factors first. These are:
- The facts and circumstances of the offense
- The criminal history of the defendant
After thorough scrutiny of the above factors, a decision is made. To be prosecuted on a felony, there must be:
- Substantial injuries sustained by the victim and
- Prior record of aggressive acts or domestic violence reported of the defendant
If the defendant is prosecuted on misdemeanor charges, the penalties are less severe compared to those of a felony offense. Some of the likely penalties will include:
- County jail sentence not exceeding a year
- A cash fine not exceeding $6,000
In some cases, the judge, after reviewing the facts of the case, he or she may order the accused to summary probation as opposed to jail time. There are conditions of probation that we will discuss in detail below.
When prosecuted on felony charges for this offense, the defendant will face steeper penalties than a misdemeanor offense. The possible penalties include:
- State imprisonment of either two or three or four years
- A cash fine not exceeding $6,000
- In some cases, both a jail sentence and a fine or either of them
- The judge can also decide to sentence the accused to formal probation with conditions.
As earlier discussed, the criminal history of the defendant is taken into consideration when prosecuting them. When a defendant is found to have had prior convictions in the last seven years for the following offenses, the penalties you will receive if convicted of felony violations of PEN 273.5 will be harsher. The prior crimes are:
- A prior conviction on the same offense of corporal injury to a spouse PEN 273.5
- A previous battery or assault conviction that leads to significant bodily harm PEN 243(d)
- A prior battery or assault by use of caustic chemicals PEN 244
- A previous conviction of stun gun assault PEN 244.5
- A previous conviction of assault by using a deadly weapon PEN 245
- A previous sexual battery conviction as found under PEN 243.4
- A prior battery on spouse conviction as found under PEN 243(e)
Any of the above convictions may mean the defendant is charged on felony offenses for inflicting corporal injury to a spouse. Specifically, a prior conviction on the battery of your spouse increases the penalties one would receive to:
- State imprisonment of two or three or four years
- A cash fine not above $10,000
With a conviction on any of the listed offenses in the defendant’s record, except battery on an intimate partner, the penalties for the felony offense of corporal injury to a spouse increase to:
- State imprisonment for two, four or five years
- A cash fine not exceeding $10,000
- Both the cash fine and jail time or either of them depending on the circumstances of the case
PEN 12022.7 Sentence Enhancement when Corporal Injury on a Spouse Leads to Significant Bodily Injuries
When a defendant is found to have caused tremendous or significant injuries to their spouse or intimate partner, they will face an enhancement on their sentence. This is found under PEN 12022.7, where the penalties for causing substantial or significant injuries are increased.
Under this statute, if you are found guilty of the offense of corporal injury on a spouse, you will receive an additional sentence served consecutively with the other penalties. The increase will be for 3 or 4 or 5 years of state imprisonment.
Probation for PEN 273.5 Violations
The judges can decide to suspend a jail sentence on a defendant. Alternatively, they can sentence the defendant to probation. For a misdemeanor offense, the defendant may be sentenced to summary probation while a felony offense carries formal probation.
A summary or misdemeanor probation lasts for a shorter period as compared to felony probation. Typically, misdemeanor probation lasts between one and three years. Felony probation lasts between three and five years. Sometimes it may include a one-year imprisonment. Probations are typically granted to first-time offenders or when there exist substantial mitigating factors.
Probations carry certain conditions that a defendant must fulfill. Failure for a defendant to meet these conditions can result in the revocation of probation and reinstatement of a jail sentence. These conditions include:
- The defendant must pay the fine imposed in full
- Paying restitution to the victim to compensate them for the expenses incurred following the suit and counseling
- Making a contribution of not more than $5,000 towards a shelter for battered women
- Attending and completing a class on domestic violence that lasts for 52 weeks
- Completing the duties assigned on community service
- The defendant must not violate any other law during their probation period
- The defendant must comply with a protective order issued to protect the victim against interaction with the defendant for ten years
- Facing minimum imprisonment of fifteen days if with a previous domestic violence sentence in the last seven years, or jail time of sixty days when the defendant carries a record of two prior domestic violence convictions
Sometimes a defendant may fail to adhere to the probation conditions triggering a hearing for probation violation. When it is proven that the defendant violated the probation terms, the judge will decide to:
- Ask the defendant to continue with the probation sentence as before, although this is rare
- Impose fresher and harsher new conditions to the probation or
- Terminate the probation sentence and sentence the defendant to serve the maximum jail time.
Consequences to Your Immigration Status if Convicted of PEN 273.5 Violations
According to the federal laws on immigration, domestic violence crimes, and more so inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, is considered a deportable offense. Some circumstances qualify this crime as one that involves moral turpitude or an aggravated felony. These crimes are inadmissible, whose consequences are severe and include:
- Prohibiting the defendant from re-entering the country once they have left
- Being denied the chance to become a citizen of the United States
- Being denied the right to seek a green card or change your status to a legal immigrant.
Three Strikes Law and PEN 273.5 Violations in California
When a person is accused of this offense that leads to significant bodily harm to a victim, the offense is considered a significant felony. Additionally, the defendant gets a strike based on the laws of three strikes in California. This means that for any subsequent felony offense the defendant commits, it will be taken as a second strike. When you are a second-time striker, the penalties faced are two times steeper compared to the legally required ones.
When the accused has two strikes in their record, another conviction on felony charges will increase their jail sentence to between 25 years to life imprisonment.
Legal Defense for PEN 273.5
Allegations of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse are severe, and if a defendant is convicted, the consequences are equally severe. For this reason, when one is accused of this offense, it is best to get the services of a Los Angeles attorney to help fight against these allegations. A criminal attorney will be able to understand these allegations and come up with various strategies to fight against the charges.
Although each case has its unique circumstances, there are various common defense strategies criminal lawyers use in defense of their clients. Some of these are:
Self Defense or Defense of Others
A defendant can argue that they acted in self-defense or they were protecting others from the alleged victim. This defense is only valid if the following facts are proven to be true:
- That the defendant had reason to believe they were in danger or another person was at risk of physical harm from the alleged victim
- Because of these reasons, the defendant believed that using force was crucial to protect themselves from the imminent danger
- That the accused used reasonable force to defend themselves or others from the possible danger
If your lawyer can successfully argue these facts and convince the court of them, the defendant will not be convicted of PEN 273.5 violations.
There was no Willfulness
One of the essential elements of the crime of inflicting corporal injuries to your spouse is the presence of willfulness. This means that the defendant willingly or intentionally caused the injuries to their spouse. However, a lawyer can argue that the injuries were accidental and not intentional.
If a lawyer can convince the court that the defendant accidentally injured their spouse, the prosecutor can drop the case and charge the defendant with a lesser offense. One of the common lesser offenses a defendant may be charged with is that of domestic battery under PEN 243(e)(1).
The law takes domestic violence allegations seriously. This has led to many people being wrongly accused of domestic violence by their spouses. Following a disagreement, a spouse can accuse their partner out of jealousy or anger while seeking revenge against them. With an experienced criminal lawyer, a defendant can fight these allegations by doing the following:
- A lawyer can subpoena text messages, emails and social network accounts of the alleged victim
- Interviewing with the alleged victim, their friends, family, colleagues at work or their online contacts
- Carrying out the accuser’s background check and that of their witnesses.
The information gathered through the interviews is necessary for showing the character of the accuser. It also demonstrates the motive of the accusation. If it is established that the alleged victim falsely accused the defendant, the case can be dismissed without consequences to the defendant.
When the Alleged Victim Refuses to Cooperate
There are many instances where the alleged victim decides to recant their accusations or refuse to testify to the offense. When this happens, many people expect the charges to be dropped. However, this is not always the case. The prosecutor may still feel the defendant is responsible for the offense and decides to prosecute the case nevertheless.
Below, we will discuss common scenarios encountered in court concerning PEN 273.5 violations. These are:
When the Alleged Victim Decides to Dismiss the Allegations
In some cases, the alleged victim of abuse may decide against pressing charges. However, the prosecutor will choose to continue with the case because they believe there are reasons the victim made that decision. Some of the reasons include:
- When the prosecutor believes that the defendant is coercing the accuser or threatening them
- The defendant is emotionally manipulating the victim
Because of this, the prosecutor may opt to continue with the case. However, the lack of the victim’s cooperation often makes the case challenging to prosecute.
When the Alleged Victim Refuses to Give Testimony in Court
In some cases, the victim of the violence may opt not to testify in court. Unfortunately, the prosecution has the power to subpoena them to testify whether they want to or not. When the victim is subpoenaed and refuses, a bench warrant for their arrest can be issued.
When the Victim is not Available to Appear in Court
There are times the alleged victim is not available to attend court. Sometimes, the victim may be missing or hiding to avoid a court appearance. When this happens, the prosecutor may find it impossible to continue with the case.
Related Crimes to PEN 273.5 Violations
Several offenses can be charged along those of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or in place of them. These may include:
Domestic Battery PEN 243(e)(1)
Under this law, a person is prohibited from offensive or harmful touching their intimate partner. This is an offense often used in a plea bargain or when there is a lack of sufficient evidence to warrant PEN 273.5 charges. In a domestic battery, there is no requirement for the victim to have sustained injuries.
Domestic battery is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense with less severe penalties compared to those of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse.
Disturbing Peace PEN 415
This is also a lesser charge compared to that of inflicting corporal injuries to one’s spouse. When there is a lack of sufficient evidence to warrant PEN 273.5 charges, the prosecutor can charge the defendant with the violations of PEN 415.
This crime involves fighting in public with a person, making unreasonable noise, and using provocative words against another in public. If a couple had a fight in public, but there is no evidence of injuries being caused, the charges of inflicting corporal injuries can be reduced to these of disturbing peace.
When a defendant is convicted on the lesser domestic violence charges, the penalties received are less severe. Subsequently, the charges carry less stigma against the defendant compared to those of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse. An experienced lawyer can gather evidence and argue a defendant’s case to get them charged with any of these offenses instead.
Find a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Near Me
Allegations for corporal injury on a spouse are serious in California, and the consequences can alter the life of a defendant. Some of these allegations are false, and you will require a proper defense strategy to fight the charges leveled against you. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm in Los Angeles are ready to help you build a good defense strategy that may see the charges were dropped. We can also discuss a plea bargain with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced. Contact us today at 310-935-1675 to learn more about how we can help you.