Domestic Violence Defense
Inflict Corporal Injury to Spouse
(PC 273.5(a)) Law & Defense
Domestic violence criminal laws are found in several sections of the California penal code. Domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant, is found at California penal code section 243(e)(1), and inflict corporal injury on a spouse, is found at California penal code section 273.5(a)-(f). Other crimes might be closely related to domestic violence crimes, such as stalking, criminal threats, violation of a restraining order, etc., but only PC 243(e)(1) and 273.5(a) deal directly with domestic violence. This page is dedicated to a discussion of the crime inflict corporal injury on a spouse found at PC 273.5(a). For more information on domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant, see PC 243(e)(1).
PC 273.5(a) law
To prove that the defendant is guilty of PC 273.5(a) the district attorney must prove that the alleged victim and the defendant are domestically related. A domestic relationship in terms of PC 273.5(a) law means that the alleged victim and the defendant are either spouses, former spouses, cohabitants in a dating relationship, or former cohabitants in a dating relationship. In addition, the district attorney will have to prove that the defendant inflicted a noticeable injury on the alleged victim; soft tissue injury and unseen injuries are insufficient to prove the crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse. There is no requirement that the alleged victim suffers actual pain and the injury inflicted does not need to be anything more than simple bruising. Finally, the district attorney must prove that the injury inflicted on the defendant’s spouse or cohabitant was without legal justification, such as an injury inflicted by the defendant when the defendant was legally defending himself against the alleged victim or an injury was inflicted by accident without abuse or violence.
Note: PC 273.5(a) is charged where the defendant is alleged to have unlawfully inflicted injury on a spouse or cohabitant as a first offense. If the defendant is charged with domestic violence while having a prior conviction for domestic violence the defendant will be charged with PC 273.5(f). PC 273.5(a) carries a longer jail or prison sentence than PC 273.5(a).
Punishment for PC 273.5(a)
Jail or Prison Sentence: The crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant may be filed either as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Crimes that may be alternately charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony are called wobbler crimes. A wobbler, such as PC 273.5(a) may be filed as a misdemeanor and subsequently increased to a felony, and vice versa. It is not uncommon to find felony domestic violence charges reduced to misdemeanor domestic violence charges as part of a plea agreement between the defendant and the district attorney; however, whether a PC 237.5(a) charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor largely depends on the circumstances and facts of the defendant's case.
Felony PC 273.5(a): If found guilty of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant under PC 273.5(a) as a felony, the defendant may face a maximum prison sentence of up to four years in prison. Felony PC 273.5(a) convictions require the defendant to serve either a probation sentence or time in prison (as opposed to a local county jail). If found guilty of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, the judge will give the defendant one of four sentences: Probation (with or without local jail time), two years prison (low term), three years prison (middle term), or four years prison (maximum term). The particular sentence that is ordered in any PC 237.5(a) case depends on whether there is a plea agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor, or, if the defendant is found guilty after trial, the facts and circumstances of the case; this includes whether or not the defendant has a prior criminal history.
Note: Felony criminal charges of inflict corporal injury on a spouse are usually written as PC273.5(a)(1)-F in San Bernardino County, which covers the cities of Redlands, San Bernardino, Yucaipa, Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville, Hesperia, Highland, and more.
Misdemeanor PC 273.5(a): If found guilty of the crime of inflict corporal injury to a spouse under PC 273.5(a) as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face up to one year in county jail; however, a probation sentence without an actual in-custody jail sentence is not uncommon in misdemeanor cases.
Note: Misdemeanor charges of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant are usually written as PC273.5(a)(1)-M in San Bernardino County, including the cities of San Bernardino, Redlands, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville, Highland, Yucaipa, Fontana, Rialto, and more.
As stated, domestic violence charges with priors of domestic violence convictions are usually charged under PC 273.5(f)(1) [inflict corporal injury on spouse with a prior domestic violence conviction]. PC 273.5(f)(1) carries up to a maximum five year prison sentence (as opposed to a four year prison sentence for a first time offence of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant charged under (PC 273.5(a).
Probation Sentence for PC 273.5(a)
Probation is a sentence in lieu of prison. Probation is a period of supervision by either a probation officer or by the court. Both misdemeanor and felony convictions of PC 273.5(a) are eligible for probation sentences. If the defendant is convicted of PC 273.5(a) as a felony the defendant may be placed on felony probation for up to four years. If the defendant is convicted of PC 273.5(a) as a misdemeanor the defendant may be placed on misdemeanor probation for up to four years (same probation term as a felony). Felony probation is monitored by a probation officer. Misdemeanor probation is monitored by the court and is commonly called informal probation, summary probation, or misdemeanor probation.
A probation sentence, in lieu of jail or prison, may be possible for any PC 273.5(a) conviction depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. A probation sentence may also carry a term of actual in-custody jail. However, actual in-custody jail sentences that are ordered as part of a probation sentence are generally much shorter and most of those jail sentences can be served on work release or house arrest (electronic monitoring).
Custody Credits: The crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant charged under PC 273.5(a) is eligible for fifty percent (50%) custody credits upon conviction. This means that for every day the defendant is on his or her good behavior while in jail or prison he or she will receive credit for two days served. This also applies to work release sentences in San Bernardino County.
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence, if convicted of PC 273.5(a), the defendant may suffer fines, probation or parole sentences, violation of prior probation sentences, domestic violence restraining orders, loss of occupational or professional licensing, immigration issues (for non-U.S. citizens), Child Protection Service issues (when children are alleged to be present at the time of the domestic violence conduct), family law legal issues, loss of firearm rights, mandatory domestic violence classes, and more.
Immigration & PC 273.5(a)
The crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant is considered a crime involving moral turpitude and a crime involving violence. A crimes involving moral turpitude means that the crime involves morally bad behavior. Crimes of moral turpitude and crimes involving violence can both lead to harsh consequences for non U.S. citizens under current U.S. immigration laws. The negative impact of a PC 273.5(a) conviction is lessened when the conviction is for a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony, but both misdemeanor and felony convictions of PC 273.5(a) can lead to deportation or exclusion of entry into the U.S. for immigrants.
Defenses to PC 273.5(a)
A good defense to a criminal charge of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. With that said, common defenses to PC 273.5(a) charges include: lack of sufficient evidence to prove injury or intent to commit violence or abuse, improper police procedures, self-defense, defense of others, bias or impeachment evidence of alleged victim, inability of the witnesses to recall or remember due to ingestion of drugs or alcohol at the time of the alleged abuse or violence, coerced confession suppression, failure of law enforcement to Mirandize defendant or properly investigate the alleged domestic violence incident, alibi defense, insanity, and more.
Note: PC 273.5(a) criminal charges are not dismissed simply because the alleged victim of domestic violence changes his or her mind about pressing criminal charges, claims to have made inaccurate statements to the police, or does not want to be a witness for the prosecution. In fact, San Bernardino County prosecutors are generally used to the fact that many victims of domestic violence either change their mind about prosecution or attempt to change their initial statements about being a victim.
DVRO & PC 273.5(a) Charges
When the defendant is charged with domestic violence under (PC 273.5(a)(1), PC 273.5(f)(1), or 243(e)(1)), the defendant may also be facing a request for domestic violence restraining order (DVRO or DV Restraining Order) in family law court. Statements made in either court may be used against the defendant in the other court. This makes it especially important to retain a domestic violence criminal defense attorney who is familiar with family law domestic violence restraining orders and vice versa without delay upon any allegations of domestic violence.
To learn more about domestic violence defense, including the crimes of inflict corporal injury to spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5(a)), domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1), or domestic violence restraining orders, visit our Domestic Violence Defense Blog, or contact our domestic violence lawyers today. Our DV lawyers have successfully represented hundreds of clients charged with domestic violence in both criminal and family law court throughout San Bernardino County, including the cities of Redlands, San Bernardino, Yucaipa, Hesperia, Highland, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Victorville, Rialto, and more. There is no charge to talk to one of our experienced domestic violence defense lawyers at an in-office first time consultation. Call today!