The crime of domestic violence spans several statutes, including domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) and corporal injury to a spouse PC 273.5(a). California PC 243(e)(1) makes it a crime to use force or violence on an intimate partner willfully. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a jail time of up to one year. You can face aggravated battery charges under PC 243d if you inflict serious bodily injury on an intimate partner.

If you inflict a physical injury on an intimate partner that results in a traumatic condition, you can face corporal injury charges on a spouse's charges. Corporal injury to a spouse attracts harsher punishment, while domestic battery attracts lesser punishment. If you face charges for corporal injury to a spouse or domestic battery, you should consult an experienced attorney to help you fight the charges.

Understanding Penal Code 273.5(a) And Penal Code 243(e)(1)

The major difference between PC 273.5(a) and PC 243(e)(1) is the extent of injury. Corporal injury is the physical injury you intentionally inflict on your spouse, leading to a traumatic condition. On the other hand, domestic battery is the willful use of force against an intimate partner, co-parent, or cohabitant. Physical injury is essential while proving corporal injury to a spouse. However, even a slight offensive touch can result in domestic battery charges under PC 243(e)(1). You do not need to inflict an injury on your spouse for you to face domestic battery charges. If the prosecutor accuses you of violating PC 273.5(a) or PC 243(e)(1), the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You willfully inflicted injury on someone else or willfully touched another person offensively.
  • The victim was an intimate partner
  • You inflicted injury on the intimate partner
  • The victim suffered a traumatic condition as a result of the injury

Willfully Inflicted Injury Or Touched Another Person Offensively

Willfulness is an essential element under PC 273.5(a) and PC 243(e)(1). You cannot face criminal charges under either of the statutes for an unintentional or accidental injury or touch. The prosecutor must provide substantial evidence showing that you injured another person. This element can only be satisfied if the injury was caused by the force you applied. If the victim sustained an injury while running away from you but you did not touch them, you cannot be guilty of causing them harm.

Under the domestic battery statute, the prosecutor must provide evidence showing your contact with the complainant was offensive. Even a seemingly innocent touch can amount to domestic battery charges. For example, it is an offense under PC 243(e)(1) to even slightly touch a victim using a foreign object.

The Victim Was An Intimate Partner

When establishing criminal liability for spousal injury or domestic battery, a crucial element is that the victim was a spouse, cohabitant, or other intimate partner. Under PC 273.5 and PC 243(e)(1), a cohabitant is a person with whom you are in a long-term relationship and share a home. You could also be guilty of domestic battery if the victim of your offensive touching was your former cohabitant or intimate partner. The following conditions can determine the nature of your relationship with the victim:

  • You have a child together or share parenting roles
  • You have defined or declared the nature of your relationship
  • You share a home
  • You have consummated the relationship while staying together
  • You share financial responsibilities

People who are considered intimate partners under PC 273.5(a) or PC 243(e)(1) include:

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

The Victim Suffered Traumatic Condition as a Result of The Injury

A traumatic condition under PC 273.5 is any wound, including internal and visible injuries. A minor injury can also be considered a traumatic condition under the following circumstances:

  • The victim suffered an injury because you applied force
  • The injury was a natural and probable repercussion of your actions
  • The use of force caused conditions like broken bones, internal bleeding, sprains, cuts, bruises, and suffocation

You could face alternative charges like simple battery, assault, or attempted corporal injury to a cohabitant if the prosecutor fails to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

Penalties Under Penal Code 273.5(a) and Penal Code 243(e)(1)

A corporal injury to a spouse is usually charged as a wobbler. In this case, you could face misdemeanor felony charges. The judge can consider the following when deciding whether to charge PC 273.5(a) as a misdemeanor or felony:

  • Your criminal record, including prior convictions or domestic violence arrests
  • The type and severity of the injury
  • The police report

You could face misdemeanor charges if you have no criminal record and the alleged injury is minor. You could face felony charges if you have a prior domestic violence charge and the alleged injury is significant.

A misdemeanor conviction can attract the following penalties:

  • A jail term that does not exceed one year in a county jail
  • A fine that does not exceed $6,000
  • Mandatory enrollment in a batterer’s treatment program
  • Lifetime ban on possession of a firearm under the federal Gun Control Act (18 USC, PC 922(g) (9)
  • A restraining order, whereby the court orders you not to come close to the victim
  • Misdemeanor probation

A felony conviction can attract the following penalties:

  • A jail term that does not exceed one year or a jail term of two, three, or four years in a state prison
  • A fine that does not exceed $6,000
  • The court could order you to enroll in a 52-week batterer's treatment program
  • Deportation or being marked inadmissible into the United States if you are a non-citizen
  • Lifetime ban on possession of a firearm under the federal Gun Control Act (18 USC, PC 922(g)(9))
  • The judge can impose a domestic violence protective order for corporal injury on a spouse's conviction
  • Felony probation

A PC 243(e)(1) violation is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor charges could attract the following penalties:

  • A jail term that does not exceed one year in a county jail
  • A fine that does not exceed $2,000
  • Lifetime ban on possession of a firearm under the federal Gun Control Act (18 USC, PC 922(g)(9))
  • Restraining order
  • Misdemeanor probation

Loss of Gun Rights

California has strict laws on the possession of guns by people convicted of felonies. If you inflict an injury on your spouse, the court could impose a firearm ban on you for a lifetime. You cannot restore your gun rights even if your felony conviction is expunged. Possession of a gun as a felony is an offense that can also attract an additional prison sentence.

Negative Immigration Consequences

You could face serious immigration consequences if you are convicted of a violent felony or a crime of moral turpitude. You could face penalties like deportation or inadmissibility into the United States if you are a noncitizen. In this case, you could lose your right to re-enter the United States once you leave. Deportation, on the other hand, is the forceful removal from the country.


Probation could be part of your sentence if you are guilty of inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant. Probation is an optional sentencing scheme that permits you to spend part of your prison or jail sentence within the community. The purpose of probation in a domestic violence case is to rehabilitate you, restore the victim, and protect the public.

You could face formal or informal probation based on the nature of your conviction. The judge could impose informal probation if you are convicted of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor probation usually lasts for a period that does not exceed three years and can have the following conditions:

  • Serving part of your jail term
  • Payment of restitution to the victim and paying any court-imposed fines
  • Engaging in community service
  • Attending mandatory counseling
  • Enrolling in the batterers program for 52 weeks

Felony probation usually lasts three to five years and has harsher probation conditions. Felony probation conditions for spousal abuse could include:

  • Adhering to the terms of a restraining order
  • Travel restrictions
  • Undergoing random drug testing
  • Avoiding committing additional offenses while on probation
  • Payment restitution to the victim
  • Mandatory reporting to a probation officer

Probation is good because it helps you secure freedom from custody. However, not all individuals charged under PC 273.5(a) and PC 243(e)(1) are eligible for probation. The judge only preserves probation for individuals with an insignificant criminal history and low-risk offenders. If you are granted probation, you could spend less or no time behind bars.

A violation of any probation condition, however, could have severe repercussions. You could also be tied to the court system for extended periods. You should consult your attorney before accepting a probation sentence. Your attorney will help you determine if probation serves your best interests.

Restraining Order

The court can impose a restraining order following a conviction under PC 273.5(a) or PC 243(e)(1). The judge can issue a restraining order to protect the victim of domestic violence. Usually, the judge imposes a temporary restraining order if the victim is in immediate danger. The order will remain in place until the judge reviews the factors surrounding the need for the order.

The court will allow you and the victim to give your account of events during a permanent restraining order hearing. The judge can impose a permanent restraining order if your spouse appears at risk. A domestic violence restraining order prevents you from contacting or going close to your spouse. Contacting can include:

  • Personal contact
  • Interacting on social media
  • Reaching out to your spouse through the phone
  • Sending emails or a text message

You could be guilty of violating PC 273.6 if you violate the terms of a restraining order. This could attract fines and a jail term.

A domestic violence restraining order also has other severe repercussions. The court could order you to move out of your home if you live in the same house as your spouse. This could prevent you from accessing your children. You should show up in court and challenge the imposition of a permanent restraining order when the court serves you with a temporary restraining order. It is also essential to seek legal guidance to fight the domestic violence restraining order.

Defenses to PC 273.5(a) and PC 243(e)(1) Charges

When you face charges for corporal injury to a spouse or domestic battery, you could present a defense using the following arguments:

You Were Intoxicated When You Committed the Offense

The evidence the prosecutor could use to show that you intended to harm your cohabitant or spouse is always circumstantial. You could argue that you lacked the mental capacity to form a specific intent if you can prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the act. If you succeed in convincing the judge, the judge could reduce or dismiss your charges.

Mutual Combat              

It is typical for domestic struggles and arguments to turn physical for both partners. You could use this as a defense if your spouse sustained an injury because of mutual combat.

Victim’s Consent

You could also claim that your spouse consented to the act that led to the domestic battery or corporal injury to a spouse's charges. However, you must provide significant evidence showing that you were involved in a sexual or sporting activity.

Insufficient Evidence

You can only be convicted of spousal abuse if the prosecutor proves the crime's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Establishing the elements of PC 273.5(a) and PC 243(e)(1) requires evidence of specific intent and your actions. You could argue that the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence, particularly in cases where there is no evidence of substantial physical injury.

False Accusations

It is common for people in intimate relationships to accuse each other falsely, especially when the relationship turns sour. Your current or former intimate partner can accuse you of domestic battery or corporal injury to a spouse. False accusations are common in domestic battery cases because the victim does not have to sustain an injury for the charges to apply. With the help of your attorney, you can prove that you are a victim of false accusations.

Find An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Near

If you face domestic battery or corporal injury on a spouse's charges, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will examine the evidence presented against you and help you create a defense to fight your charges. For reliable legal representation in Sacramento, contact the Foos Gavin Law Firm. Call us at 916-779-3500 to speak to one of our attorneys.