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Corporal Injury to Spouse

Garcia Law Group > Corporal Injury to Spouse



What is Penal Code 273.5 Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant?


Penal Code Section 273.5 refers to a crime of domestic violence where a person inflicts corporal injury upon a current/former spouse, cohabitant, co-parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend. This crime may be called spousal abuse, domestic abuse, domestic violence or causing injury to spouse.


This offense is what is known as a “wobbler,” which means the prosecutor’s office can file the charges as a felony or a misdemeanor.


California Penal Code Section 273.5 states:


“(a) Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in subdivision (b) is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”


What are the Elements of PC 273.5 Corporal Injury to a Spouse?


The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

(1) The Defendant intentionally and unlawfully inflicted a physical injury on his/her current/former spouse/cohabitant/co-parent;

(2) The injury resulted in a traumatic condition;

(3) The Defendant did not act in self-defense


What is a traumatic condition and what are some examples of a traumatic condition?


A traumatic condition is a wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct use of physical force by the defendant. For example, squeezing a spouse’s arm and leaving a bruise, punching a co-parent and causing a laceration or broken rib.



What are the penalties for PC 273.5(a) Corporal injury to a spouse?


Depending on whether the conviction is for a misdemeanor or a felony, potential penalties are as follows:


Type of Penal Code 273.5 PC conviction

Potential penalty

Misdemeanor conviction

Up to 1 year in county jail, and/or

A fine of up to $6,000.

Felony conviction

2, 3 or 4 years in state prison, and/or

A fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000).

A conviction within 7 years of a prior conviction for:

Corporal injury on a spouse, PC 273.5,

Assault/battery resulting in serious bodily injury, PC 243(d)

Assault/battery w/caustic chemical PC 244,

Assault w/ a stun gun, PC 244.5,

Assault w/ a deadly weapon, PC 245, or

Sexual battery, PC 243.4.

Up to 1 year in county jail, or

2, 4, or 5 years in state prison; and/or

A fine of up to $10,000.

A conviction within 7 years of a conviction for

Battery on a spouse, PC 243(e)

Up to 1 year in county jail, or

2, 3, or 4 years in state prison; and/or

A fine of up to $10,000.


Aside from just the criminal penalties, collateral consequences can be a lifetime ban on firearms, employment consequences, and immigration consequences among others.


What are some defenses/how to fight it?


Unfortunately, many incidents of domestic violence involve false accusations by one of the spouses. Once the false accusation is made and the police will typically find the reporting party more credible than the suspected party. Even if the accuser later recants their version of events, the prosecutor can still file charges.  Self-defense may be claimed if the force used by the defendant was proportional and it was necessary at the time of the offense. Hiring a criminal defense attorney early on in the process can be crucial in helping persuade the police and/or the prosecutor in rejecting or dismissing the case.


What happens if the victim (accuser) decides s/he wants the charges dropped?


Some believe that the accuser (victim) can decide not to “press charges.” This belief is not correct. The power to prosecute or NOT prosecute lies with the prosecutor, NOT with the victim (alleged victim) in the case.  Prosecutors often assume that the alleged victim is dropping charges only because:


(a) The victim is being threatened or coerced by the defendant, or

(b) The victim is being emotionally manipulated by the defendant.


So it is likely that the prosecutor will file charges anyway.


What if the victim of a crime does not show up to court?


Sometimes an alleged victim of domestic violence refuses to testify against the defendant at trial.

But the prosecutor has the “subpoena power” of the court. This means that the accuser can be forced to come to court and testify even if s/he does not want to.

The prosecutor must personally serve the witness with a subpoena to appear This means they must find the witness and personally hand him/her papers informing the accuser that he/she must appear in court. If the witness still refuses, the judge can issue a bench warrant for his/her arrest.



Similar offenses include:

PC 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery

PC 422 Criminal threats

PC 415 Disturbing the Peace



By Joel Garcia, Esq.

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