Domestic violence is severely punished because it involves violence against a close family member, whether a spouse, parent, child, or cohabitant. PC 273.5 is the law against inflicting a corporal injury on an intimate partner. It is a wobbler offense, resulting in up to four years in prison and a hefty court fine. You will face other severe consequences, especially those that come with having a criminal record, including difficulties in finding suitable employment.

But you can fight your charges under PC 273.5 with the help of an experienced criminal attorney. Suppose you carefully and skillfully choose an attorney to represent you during the trial. In that case, they can use the right defense strategies to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges.

What It Means to Face Charges Under PC 273.5

There are all kinds of laws against domestic violence, including domestic abuse, domestic battery or assault, sexual battery, and inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner. Criminal court judges and prosecutors take domestic violence-related cases very seriously. The charges you face as a perpetrator of domestic violence will mainly depend on the details of your case. The sentence the judge will deliver after your conviction also depends on your criminal history.

If you face charges under PC 273.5, it means that you have inflicted a corporal injury on your intimate partner. The prosecutor must demonstrate all the elements of this offense (which constitute the legal meaning of the offense) for the judge to deliver a guilty verdict. These elements include the following:

  • That you willfully inflicted a corporal injury on another person
  • The victim of your crime is an intimate partner or someone you are domestically related to
  • Your actions caused the victim to suffer a traumatic condition

All these elements are crucial in proving that you violated PC 273.5. The judge will dismiss your charges if the prosecutor cannot demonstrate all three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Here are these elements in more detail to help you understand this law better:

A Corporal Injury

A corporal injury refers to any severe form of violence or force against another person’s body. The injury must be physical and could result from punching, hitting, pushing, biting, or slapping. If you use force or violence against another person and they sustain a physical injury, you have inflicted a corporal injury on them.

Willful Action

PC 273.5 involves a willful action that causes another person to sustain a corporal injury. A willful act means you acted willingly, intentionally, or deliberately to cause the other person’s injury. Your actions must not be accidental to satisfy the requirements of this law. However, acting willfully does not necessarily mean that you intend to harm the victim, break the law, or gain an advantage over anyone.

For example, if you push your partner and they fall, your actions are intentional. However, if your partner slips and falls without your involvement, the prosecutor cannot hold you responsible if they sustain a corporal injury.

Domestic Relationship

Remember that domestic violence is a general term for all violence-related crimes against people that are closely related to the perpetrator. Thus, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you have a domestic relation with the victim to face charges against PC 273.5. The victim can be your ex- or current spouse, current or ex-cohabitant, your parenting partner, or the person you are dating. Here are examples of people this law protects:

  • Spouses
  • Registered domestic partners
  • Cohabitants
  • Fiancee
  • Other parents of a defendant’s child
  • The people the defendant has seriously dated

If you are or were living under the same roof as a person, they could be your cohabitants if the following are true:

  • You have or had sexual relations with them when living in the same house
  • You share your income and expenses
  • You have joint ownership of assets
  • You use your properties jointly
  • You carry yourselves as though you are in a serious relationship while out there.
  • You have been living together for a significant period

Note: It is common for one person to cohabit with two or more partners. Thus, you can face criminal charges for inflicting a corporal injury on one of your cohabitants if you have two or several.

Traumatic Condition

A physical injury becomes a corporal injury, resulting in a traumatic condition. It means that the victim sustained a physical wound or an internal or external bodily injury.

For example, if the victim has suffocation or strangulation marks on their neck or any sign of a physical injury, the judge will deliver a guilty verdict. Note that the bodily injury does not need to be significant. Even bruising on the skin or a sprained ankle is enough to cause a conviction.

Possible Penalties After a Conviction Under PC 273.5

Inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner under PC 273.5 is a wobbler. This means that the prosecutor can file misdemeanor or felony charges against you. The penalties you will likely receive after a conviction depend on whether your charges were a felony or misdemeanor.

A felony conviction can result in the following penalties:

  • Two, three, or four years in prison
  • Felony probation for up to five years
  • A court fine of $6,000

If you have a conviction for domestic battery (under PC 242), sexual battery (under PC 243.4), or other assault- or battery-related offenses, and the prior conviction occurred within seven years with the underlying charge, you could face the following penalties:

  • A maximum of five years in prison
  • Felony probation
  • A court fine of $10,000

If sentenced on probation, the judge can order you to serve at least one year in prison and the test of your sentence on probation. If you have one prior conviction for an assault or battery-related offense, you must serve at least fifteen days in jail. If the previous convictions are two, the minimum period you must serve in jail goes up to 60 days.

If there is a prior conviction in your record for a domestic-violence-related offense, and the conviction occurred within seven years of the current charge, you could be subject to these penalties:

  • A maximum of four years in prison
  • One year in jail and up to five years on felony probation
  • $10,000 in court fines

In addition to these penalties, you could face the following consequences:

  • A restraining or protective order that forbids you from coming within a particular distance of the victim or the victim’s loved ones
  • A mandatory requirement to undergo domestic violence or anger management training
  • A requirement to contribute a specific amount to a battered women's shelter
  • Payment of restitution to the victim to enable them to seek medical treatment or counseling or cover damages incurred from your actions
  • Participation in community service for a particular period

Note that if you own or use guns, you will no longer be able to do so after a felony conviction. The judge will remove your gun rights for a specified period or permanently.

A domestic violence conviction can also affect your immigration status, leading to removal or being marked as inadmissible to the United States.

Penalty Enhancement for a Great Bodily Injury

A great injury is a substantial physical injury. Remember that PC 273.5 applies even in cases where the victim sustains a minor bruising. However, if you cause your victim to sustain a much more severe physical injury, you could be subject to sentencing enhancement under PC 12022.7. Sentencing enhancement results in an additional prison sentence to the sentence the judge will give you after a conviction. If the judge sentences you to four years for inflicting corporal injury on your intimate partner, you could receive an additional three, four, or five years for causing the victim a great bodily injury.

You will serve the additional sentence concurrently with the sentence for the underlying charge. That means a longer prison sentence.

The Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

A misdemeanor conviction is less severe than a felony conviction. However, that does not necessarily mean you will face leniency when the jury delivers a guilty verdict. The judge will likely sentence you to the following:

  • A maximum of one year in jail
  • $1,000 in court fines
  • Misdemeanor probation

If sentenced to probation, you will serve your sentence out of incarceration under strict probation conditions. For example, you must not commit any crime while on probation. The court could also issue a protective order against you to keep you away from your loved ones.

A conviction for domestic violence will also result in a damaging criminal record that could affect your social and career lives. Spending a long time in prison or jail serving your sentence could affect your relationships. You will also likely lose your job or business. That is why you must find a skilled criminal attorney to help you defend yourself and avoid all these and many other consequences of a criminal conviction.

Defending Yourself Against PC 273.5 Charges

Due to the seriousness of criminal charges under PC 273.5, it is advisable to prepare your defense to avoid a conviction. An aggressive criminal attorney can help you prepare a solid defense against your charges to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. Fortunately, criminal attorneys have a wide range of legal defense strategies they can use to help their clients in their legal situations.

Here are some of the best strategies your attorney can use to obtain a favorable outcome:

The Victim’s Injury Was Accidental

You can use this defense strategy if you believe that what happened to your intimate partner was accidental and not deliberate. Remember that charges under PC 273.5 apply only in cases whereby a defendant willfully or deliberately inflicts a corporal injury on their spouse or someone to whom they are domestically related. You are not guilty if your actions were accidental, and the judge will dismiss your charges. However, you must demonstrate your innocence for the judge to do so. You must provide evidence, like eyewitness testimony, to convince the jury of your innocence.

You Are Facing False Accusations

You can use this defense strategy if the victim falsely accuses you of a crime you did not commit. However, you must remember that the jury relies on evidence to deliver the final verdict. Simply stating your innocence will not help to compel the jury to deliver a not-guilty verdict. A skilled attorney will know the kind of evidence that can support your claim. For example, they can argue and prove that you were not near the crime scene when the victim sustained a corporal injury. The judge will dismiss your charges if you have a solid alibi or evidence that you did not commit the crime.

You Were Acting in Self-Defense

If you face criminal charges for injuring a person in self-defense or the defense of another person, the judge can dismiss your charges. The law allows the use of reasonable force or violence if you or another person is facing imminent danger. However, to accept this defense strategy in court, you must demonstrate that the force or violence you used was reasonable. You must also show that you or another person was in danger and had to do what you did to stay safe. If the judge accepts your defense, they will dismiss your charges.

Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me

If you face criminal charges under PC 273.5, you will likely receive a severe penalty if a jury trial finds you guilty. However, a skilled attorney can help develop a solid defense against your charges to compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. You also need an attorney to protect your rights and support you during the most challenging period.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we offer guidance and advice and help maneuver the complex legal processes that follow a criminal arrest in Sacramento. We begin by studying your case details to advise you on your options. We also use the best defense strategies to obtain a fair outcome for our clients’ cases. Call us at 916-779-3500 to discuss your case and our services further.