A corporal injury can be a component of a violent crime such as assault or battery. Corporal Injury to a spouse or cohabitant is a component of domestic violence crime in California (Penal Code 273.5 PC). The imposition of corporal injury elevates the charge above that of simple domestic battery.
Most states have modified their criminal and civil statutes to eliminate outdated and imprecise words such as “corporal injury”. Domestic violence laws in California are among the few in the country that still use the phrase.
What is a Corporal Injury?
A corporal injury is a bodily wound caused by force.
It makes no difference how much force you use. It also makes no difference whether the force was applied with a weapon or a rifle. Also, it makes no difference whether the force resulted in slight or severe bodily injury. All that counts is that the force resulted in a traumatic injury to the victim’s body.
A corporal injury can include any of the following:
- a fractured bone,
- a gunshot wound,
- a strained muscle or a ligament sprain
- a graze,
- a laceration or a cut,
- internal bleeding, for example
- a concussion
- Examples that are not included are:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the violence
- distressing emotions,
- damage to property,
- financial setbacks
- physical contact that did not leave a mark or inflict any bodily harm
What Are Some Examples of Crimes Involving Corporal Injury?
In criminal laws that ban assault, very few states in the United States still employ the phrase “corporal injury.”
Rhode Island is one of the few that still does. Their statute, which prohibits simple assault or battery, does not define either term. Instead, the definitions of simple assault and battery are derived from common law, where courts develop workable standards to fill in the gaps created by ambiguous laws. In the state, an assault is defined as “a physical act of a threatening kind or a promise of corporal injury” that places a reasonable person in imminent fear of bodily damage.
Far more states have altered their criminal codes to replace vague language like “corporal injury” with more specific aspects of the crime.
One of these states is Oregon. Oregon’s criminal statutes forbidding assault, like Rhode Island’s, used to rely on common law norms to define the term “attack”. This was defined as “an act legitimately putting one in fear of corporal injury” in 1959.
Since then, the Oregon legislature has established new assault statutes. These statutes no longer utilize the term “corporal injuries” to differentiate between different categories of assault charges. Instead, the laws make use of:
- bodily wounds,
- severe physical injuries
- bodily harm caused by a lethal weapon, and
- significant physical harm caused by the use of a lethal weapon4
Who Is Considered an ‘Intimate Partner’ of a Defendant?
An intimate partner is defined as follows in California law, according to Penal Code 273.5:
Current or former spouse of the defendant- either wife or husband; a former or current cohabitant who is residing/leaving with the defendant; a former or current fiancé to the defendant; an individual with whom the accused has had a serious or known dating relationship; father or mother of the defendant’s child; or a child to the defendant
The corporal injury statute specifies three elements that must be met in order for a case to qualify as corporal injury. That the defendant willfully inflicted bodily injury on the victim, that the victim is a former or current intimate partner, and that the injury resulted in a traumatic condition.
A person is considered to have acted willfully if he or she did something with purpose yet did not want to break the law. Couples Rick and Joyce, for example, were squabbling. When Rick’s emotions were too much for him, he struck Joyce in the face, causing her to bleed inside. Rick slapped Joyce on purpose—willfully—but he did not plan to do such severe injury to Joyce. As a result, he will be charged with corporal injury under the law.
What Constitutes a Traumatic Condition Under California Law?
According to California law, Penal Code 275.3, traumatic action is defined as any wound or bodily injury induced by a directly applied physical force. The injury may or may not be serious, but there should be some evidence to support it. A fractured jaw, a bruising, internal or external bleeding, suffocation or strangling, or a concussion are all examples of traumatic injuries recognized by California law.
If you acted in a way that resulted in any of the aforementioned injuries to your intimate partner, you could be charged with corporal injury. However, before you are convicted of an injury that caused a traumatic condition, California law requires the court, through its prosecuting attorney, to prove that the indicted person’s activity is the factual basis of the traumatic symptoms the victim is suffering from. As a result, a traumatic state is seen to be a result of the injury if and only if the following conditions are met:
- The victim’s traumatized condition was unavoidable and was definitely caused by the defendant’s injury.
- The injury was a consistent and significant source of the traumatic condition.
- The traumatic condition would not have happened if the defendant had not caused the injury.
Read Also: What Is Sexual Battery? Laws and Penalties
An Example of a Case in Which Someone Is Not Liable for Causing a Traumatic Condition:
Doyle and May had a lawful marriage. However, a disagreement erupted, resulting in frequent violence. They had an argument about something one day, which causes Doyle to push May numerous times. May marched away, disgusted. Unfortunately, she was hit by a vehicle, breaking her limb, and she later filed a complaint about a corporal injury.
In this situation, Doyle is not guilty of corporal injury because May’s traumatic state (breaking the leg) was caused by an event she encountered as she walked away, not by Doyle’s push. As a result, Doyle is not the direct cause of Mary’s terrible condition.
Corporal Injury To a Spouse Is A Wobbler Offense (PC 273.5)
Inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant is a “wobbler” offense under California Penal Code Section 273.5. This implies that depending on the circumstances of your case, the crime could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Prosecutors will consider a variety of variables when assessing how you should be charged. These elements are as follows:
- The particulars of your situation
- The severity of the victim’s injuries, as well as
- Your previous criminal record (if any)
If you have been accused of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, you should contact an experienced spousal abuse lawyer right once. Your attorney may be able to get the charges dropped or persuade prosecutors to file misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges if he or she fights strongly for you before they are filed.
Misdemeanor Corporal Injury to a Spouse Punishment
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor for inflicting corporal injury on your spouse, you might face up to 364 days in county jail and a $6,000 fine.
A conviction entails other forms of punishment, such as:
- A restraining order for domestic violence – A protection order, which can last up to ten years, could prevent you from having any contact with the victim. This order may be granted regardless of whether your sentence is suspended, placed on probation, or sentenced to jail.
- Community service and counseling — If you are convicted of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, California law requires you to attend a 52-week batterer’s program.
- Restitution – You may be obliged to pay for the victim’s counseling. You may be forced to pay reparation to the victim for other reasons as well.
Felony Corporal Injury to a Spouse Penalties
Felony corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant carries harsher penalties. If you are convicted of felony marital abuse under PC 273.5, you face up to two, three, or four years in state prison and a $6,000 fine.
If you have a past conviction for battery, sexual battery, or any kind of violent violence on your record, you might face up to five years in jail for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse.
Furthermore, if the victim was seriously injured, your punishment could be increased. If you cause “severe bodily harm” to the victim, you could face an extra three, four, or five years in jail under PC 12202.7.
Sentencing Options for Felony Corporal Injury to a Spouse in Court
If you are convicted of the crime of inflicting corporal injury on your spouse, the court has a few alternatives for sentencing you.
The court has the authority to perform any of the following:
- You will be sentenced to two, three, or four years in prison.
- Sentence you to up to 364 days in county jail and order you to be placed on probation upon release, OR
- Impose no jail term and immediately place you on probation.
The unique circumstances of your case, as well as how the California Rules of Court under CRC 4.414, 4.421, and 4.423 apply to your case, will determine how you are sentenced. So, these regulations outline the elements that the court must evaluate when deciding whether to grant you probation or sentence you to time in jail.
How A Corporal Injury To A Spouse Conviction May Affect Your Immigration Status
If the victim is your spouse, PC 273.5 violations are deemed “crimes of moral turpitude”. So, this means that if you are guilty of inflicting corporal injury on your spouse, you could face the following penalties:
- You’ll lose your right to re-enter the country if you leave.
- You will no longer be able to become a citizen of the United States.
- You will no longer be able to apply for a green card or an “adjustment of status.”
Other Charges Relating To Corporal Injury
Some offenses in California are related to Penal Code 275.3 corporal injury and can sometimes be filed instead of corporal injury.
#1. Domestic Battery
According to Penal Code 243 (e) 1 of the California domestic battery statute, an intimate partner should not be harmed or touched in any inappropriate way. If you do such an act, you will be charged with domestic battery, which is a crime punishable by law. Domestic battery, on the other hand, is a minor infraction and hence penalized lightly, as opposed to corporal injury. Furthermore, the victim must not have suffered a major injury for you to be prosecuted for domestic abuse. If convicted of this offense, the penalty may include a year in county jail or a fine of up to $2000. In rare situations, probation may be given, making domestic battery a more mild charge that can be enforced as a manner of pardoning an individual convicted with corporal injury.
#2. Disruption Of Peace
Public fights, loud noises, and the use of aggressive language towards another individual are always crimes punishable by law, according to Penal Code 415 of the California legislation ‘disturbing the peace.’ Prosecutors frequently use this allegation to reduce the penalties that could be imposed under Penal Code 273.5. It usually results in a 90-day prison sentence or a fine of up to $400.
#3. Abuse of the Elderly
Inflicting pain on an individual over the age of 65 is a crime under Penal Code 368 of California’s ‘elder abuse law.’ So, if you are proven to have caused such disturbances to your intimate partner who is over the age of 65, you will be charged with this crime. Elder abuse is considered a wobbler case by the law, and you can be charged with either felony or misdemeanor elder abuse. If prosecuted with a felony, you could face 2 to 4 years in prison and a $6,000 fine. You might face up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine if you are charged with misdemeanor elder abuse.
#4. Abuse of Children
If the responder is cohabiting with a minor(s), California law requires that one face prosecution for endangering the life of a child under Penal Code 273 (a).
Before being convicted of any of the foregoing crimes, the court must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: the respondent damaged the intimate partner, disturbed the peace, or cohabits with the old or kid.