The family is the pillar of any society and requires protection against any issues that may affect its very ideals. The State of California considers corporal injury as one aspect that compromises the stability of a family unit. Matters of family disputes often include corporal injury as one of the contributing factors. While disagreements are common in families, the state doesn’t consider these disagreements as an excuse for any form of conflict that may result in injury to an intimate partner, whether involuntary or premeditated. If the victim decides to report corporal injury against you, you can face harsh penalties. Having the LA Criminal Defense Attorney in your corner is your best chance for fighting off the harsh penalties in Los Angeles, CA.
Legal Definition of Corporal Injury
California Law under Penal Code 273.5 defines corporal injury as any intentional act of violence or actions resulting in a physical injury that leads to a traumatic condition on an intimate partner. The partner, according to the law, can either be your current or former partner with whom you share or shared an intimate relationship.
In determining your guilt, the court will need to understand the willingness of your actions that led to the injury and the traumatic condition your intimate partner suffered. Willingness speaks of your intentions while inflicting bodily harm to your intimate partner. You may be convicted if it is determined that you intended to cause injury during the confrontation. However, the law also considers actions whose aim was not to cause harm but to intimidate your intimate partner. Such actions will be regarded as violations of the law.
In the matter of trauma, legally, it should be shown by the prosecution that the confrontation led to bodily injury and that the injury was as a result of force, no matter how minor the injury is. Concussions, broken bones, a sprain, internal bleeding, a bruise, or any harm experienced by your intimate partner because of strangulation, or suffocation are some of the detailed experiences that define trauma as provided for in the law.
It is upon the prosecution to prove that your actions did indeed inflict the trauma experienced by your intimate partner. That is, the traumatic state was a natural consequence of the injury. As such, the court will be satisfied that the traumatic condition experienced resulted from the injury. It, therefore, follows that the prosecution, in its submission, will need to produce adequate evidence to show that the trauma could in no way have happened had it not been for the injury inflicted.
Definition of Intimate Partner under California Law
Partners need to share some level of intimacy if the case against a defendant is to be successful. Intimacy is defined as any friendly, close, or sexual relationship be it in the present or the past. Intimate relationships in their very nature are shared between spouses, those who are engaged, registered domestic partners, any person with whom the defendant has a child, and those who are dating, or what passes as a committed relationship.
Cohabiting parties also fall in the category of intimate partners. Any persons who live together and thus, share expenses and incomes, jointly own property, or share the same residence are considered as people cohabiting. The law acknowledges the fact that cohabitation may not be limited to two parties. It follows, therefore, that if you were involved in a domestic dispute that resulted in bodily harm to all whom you cohabit with, then separate charges may be instituted against you.
Penalties Provided for under Penal Code 273.5
A corporal injury is an offense whose outcome can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. The discretion on which direction the case should take rests with the prosecution. As with any other criminal matter, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. They need to detail beyond any reasonable doubt that you are indeed liable for the violations of the law. Moreover, they will also consider your criminal history, if any, and the facts of your case to determine if they will prosecute a felony or a misdemeanor case.
Any conviction for corporal injury as a misdemeanor attracts a jail sentencing of not more than one year served in county jail. The offense may also include a fine of not more than $6,000 or as a punishment on its own. Consequently, the judge may opt to sentence the defendant to serve a misdemeanor (summary) probation as opposed to serving a jail term.
It is possible for your case to be prosecuted as a felony charge if indeed it is determined that you have a history of domestic violence. This means that any complaints, aggressive acts, or eye witness accounts that speak to your violent nature will be enough grounds for the prosecution to take up the matter as a felony.
Felony charges attract a fine of not more than $6,000 and/or a term of two, three, or four years served in state prison. The judge in the case will determine what punishment fits the crime. They may also consider offering felony probation depending on the facts in your case.
Penal Code 273.5 offers an exception to the penalties imposed against violations of the corporal injury law. A defendant may receive a lesser sentence even if they have prior convictions for assault or domestic violence. However, harsher penalties will be imposed if it is determined that they were convicted of the following violations within seven years prior to the case at hand.
- The battery of an Intimate partner, an offense prosecutable under Penal Code 243 (e),
- Corporal injury on an intimate partner as provided for under Penal Code 273.5,
- Assault or battery with a caustic chemical punished under Penal Code 244,
- Assault or battery with a deadly weapon, which was prosecuted pursuant to Penal Code 245,
- Assault or battery that resulted in serious bodily harm, a charge the defendant was convicted for within the terms that Penal Code 243 (d) dictates,
- Sexual battery under Penal Code 243.4, or
- Assault through the use of a stun gun, whose penalties were as provided for under Penal Code 244.5.
Any prior convictions related to the battery of an intimate partner, or corporal injury on an intimate partner as provided for under Penal Code 273.5, attracts a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or a prison sentence of two, three, or four years in state prison.
All other prior convictions of either of the above violations other than the battery on an intimate partner, or corporal injury on an intimate partner are punishable by a sentence in state prison of two, four, or five years, and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Sentence Enhancement for Corporal Injury under Penal Code 12022.7 and Probation Terms under Penal Code 273.5
Penal Code 1022.7 seeks to address the matter of great bodily harm. Any physical injury to an intimate partner that is significant or substantial in the pain it causes fits the definition of great bodily harm. Any individual convicted of such an offense is liable for enhanced sentencing that includes a three, four, or five-year term in state prison over and above the conviction terms offered by the presiding judge.
Probation terms are issued guided by the conditions stipulated in Penal Code 273.5. The judge may decide to drop the domestic violence violation penalties in favor of probationary terms. You could receive summary probation if the charge was a misdemeanor or formal probation in the event that you were convicted of a felony charge. A misdemeanor charge carries a one or three-year probation. Felony probations, on the other hand, ensure that the defendant serves a three to a five-year sentence.
Formal probations are only issued if it is the defendant’s first offense or if they provide to the court mitigating factors that relate to the crime as provided for in California’s court Ruling 4.423 or factors that relate to the defendant that show that the court should grant leniency.
Defendants on probation are required to meet certain probation conditions in either a misdemeanor or felony charges if they are to remain out of jail. These conditions include;
- Fine payment as directed by the courts,
- The non-violation of any other laws,
- Paying any amounts not exceeding $5,000 to shelters for battered women,
- Paying restitution sums to cater for the cost of counseling and other incidental costs your intimate partner incurred as a result of dealing with the trauma,
- Completion of the community service terms,
- Attending and completing domestic violence classes that are a 52-week program,
- Remaining compliant with the restraining order terms set by the court for a period of up to ten years, and/or,
- Serving a minimum jail term of fifteen days if it is determined that the defendant has a prior conviction within the past seven years for domestic violence or assault offense, or sixty days in the event that the defendant has two or more priors.
Any violation of the probation terms by the defendant will be addressed in a probation violation hearing. If the judge is convinced of an offense, they will issue similar probation terms to the defendant as before, impose harsher or new conditions, or revoke the probation and impose prison terms that could have the defendant serving a maximum sentence.
Corporal Injury for Immigrants
Individuals who are non-citizens and have violated Penal Code 273.5 will be prosecuted pursuant to the dictates of the federal immigration law. The defendant, in this case, risks deportation as a result of a conviction of corporal injury offenses. For immigrants, the corporal injury is a deportable crime. In some cases, the offense can be handled as an aggravated felony or as a crime involving moral turpitude (CMIT).
Aggravated felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude (CMIT) are crimes whose consequences may deny the defendant the right to re-enter the country after deportation. In other instances, the defendant loses their chances of obtaining US citizenship. Furthermore, any rights to the defendant that created an opportunity for them to apply for an adjustment of status from illegal to legal immigrant or the application of a green card will be revoked.
It is worth noting that great bodily injury is considered as a strike offense under California Law, Penal Code 273.5. The law states that any great bodily harm that results from a defendant’s actions is both a serious felony and a strike offense under the Three Strikes California Law.
Legal Defenses Available Against a Corporal Injury Charge
There are various strategies that criminal defense attorneys have at their disposal when they seek to have the charges for violations of Penal Code 273.5 reduced or dismissed entirely. The strategy used depends on the facts of the case. Let’s analyze some of the defenses that we can use if you are facing corporal injury charges.
The Charges are based on False Accusation
Criminal matters are weighty issues in California. This often leads to authorities as well as prosecutors arresting and charging individuals based on false allegations resulting from malice, hatred, anger, jealousy, or from the desire for revenge. If the matters are not thoroughly investigated, you risk being convicted of a crime not based on facts.
These allegations can be fought off with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. They will subpoena the accuser’s communications on email, social media accounts, or text messages, interview their close associates, family, and friends as well having a background check conducted on their story and any of their witnesses. The aim of all these is to determine the real motive of the allegations leveled against the defendant.
An Act of Self-Defense or in Defense of Others
This defense requires certain aspects to be achieved for it to hold in the trial. First, it needs to be proven that it was your view that you or someone else were at risk of being harmed as a result of the dispute. It should also be in your opinion that there was a need for force to defend yourself or another person against the danger of great bodily harm. Finally, you as the defendant used force that was reasonable in preventing the threat on you or another person. Once all the three matters are proven in the case, there should be a not guilty verdict for your case.
The Action by the Defendant was not Premeditated
The intent is key in proving a defendant’s guilt in the matter of corporal injury to an intimate partner. If your actions that led to the injury of your partner were a natural consequence of the heated argument, the prosecution would dismiss the case. The defense can argue that the injury was an accident. However, the prosecution may decide to push on with the charges, in which the defense attorneys can seek reduced charges to less severe offenses like domestic battery, under Penal Code 243 (e) (1).
Likely Scenarios if a Corporal Injury Accuser Fails to Cooperate
Instances of failed cooperation by the accuser do happen. However, failure on their part does not mean that the prosecution will drop the charges. There are other avenues the prosecutors may decide to utilize to ensure they get a conviction.
Refusal by the Accuser to Testify in Court
Accusers in some instances have been known to avoid testifying against the defendants during the court proceedings. However, their testimony is pivotal in the case, and as such, the prosecution may use its powers and subpoena the accuser to appear before the court. Should the accuser fail to honor the subpoena, the presiding judge will issue a bench warrant for their arrest. This is to ensure that the accuser testifies whether they want to or not. However, it is a legal requirement that the prosecutor personally serves the accuser the subpoena.
The Accuser Decides to Deny the Charges
Victims can decide to deny the corporal injury charges. Their decision may make the prosecution’s job difficult, but it does not mean that they will drop the charges altogether. According to the prosecution, the move by the victim may be the result of threats, coercion, or the emotional manipulation by the accused, thus explaining their push for a conviction after the accuser decides to deny the charges. This situation presents an opportunity for the defense to seek better plea agreement terms.
The Victim Cannot be Called Before the Court
Accusers may flee the jurisdiction in which the case is being handled in or may go into hiding. Such situations make it difficult for the prosecution for collaborating their evidence. It also eliminates the opportunity for cross-examination by the defense. Based on the evidence rule, Evidence Code 1200 (a), any account of a case on record other than by a witness is considered as a secondhand statement and will be categorized as hearsay if produced as evidence in the trial. Therefore, the presence of the witnesses to collaborate their account of the corporal injury matter is mandatory.
If the accusing party is not available to collaborate the evidence, their statements, as seen from the ongoing, are considered as hearsay and are, therefore, inadmissible. This will result in the dismissal of the corporal injury charges due to the lack of sufficient evidence.
Offenses Related to Corporal Injury that may be used by Prosecutors
Prosecutors have the latitude to include various charges in their pursuit to prosecute the corporal injury case. They also have the option of preferring the following charges instead of the corporal injury charges.
Penal Code 243 (e) (1) prohibits any offensive or harmful touching of an intimate partner. In domestic battery cases, the victim does not need to be injured to have legal recourse against you, and it thus prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Violations of Penal Code (e) (1) are punishable with a jail sentence of not more than a year, and a fine not exceeding $2,000. The judge may be lenient and offer probation on the basis that the accused completes the conditions of the probation provided for by the court.
Disturbing the Peace
Any action that involves fighting another in public, causing unnecessary noise that disturbs others or the use of fighting words directed towards another in a public setup is considered a crime under Penal Code 415.
Plea bargain terms used by the prosecution may include prosecution of your case as disturbing the peace charge under Penal Code 415 as opposed to corporal injury. This charge is an ideal outcome as disturbing the peace charges are considered as low-level misdemeanors or non-criminal infractions. A ninety-day jail term and/or a fine of not more than $400 is the punishment for the offense, and it is far better than the penalties you risk serving if you are prosecuted for corporal injury.
Penal Code 368 prohibits and considers as crimes any action(s) that shows willful or negligence on the part of a defendant, the imposition of unjust mental suffering or physical pain to a person who is 65 years of age or over. Therefore, if your intimate partner is of 65 years or over, you stand accused of elder abuse under Penal Code 368, or Penal Code 273.5, intentional infliction of corporal injury on an intimate partner.
If prosecuted as a felony, you stand to serve a two, three, or four-year sentence in a state penitentiary and/or pay a fine to the tune of not more than $6,000. The penalties become more grave if the victim who suffered great bodily harm is 70 years or above or that the abuse leads to their demise. In the event that the charges are misdemeanors, you will be required to pay a fine of not more than $1,000, and/or serve a jail sentence of up to six months.
If you are being charged with a crime feel free to contact our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer for a free consultation.