Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant

Penal Code Section 273.5

Corporal injury offense is a form of domestic battery that causes a visible physical injury (even if the injury is minor) to a current/former spouse, co-parent, or cohabitant. Unlike domestic battery, this charge requires the victim to be an intimate partner.

Elements – What elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt?

In order to be found guilty of Penal Code section 273.5, the prosecution must show you:


1) Willfully inflicted a physical injury,
An action is willful if it is done willingly or on purpose. You need not have intended to break the law or cause injury.


2) On an “intimate partner”, and
A person is an intimate partner if it is your:

  • Spouse or former spouse,
  • Cohabitant or former cohabitant,
  • Fiancé, fiancée, or someone with whom you have had a previous engagement or dating relationship, or
  • The mother or father of your child.


3) Caused a traumatic condition.
Traumatic Condition: A traumatic condition is a wound or other bodily injury caused by direct application of physical force. The wound or injury can be relatively minor and need not be serious in nature. Examples include a small cut, bruises, internal bleeding, or a sprain.

Caused: Cause means that that the condition was the natural probable consequence of the punishment/injury, the condition was the natural and probable consequence of the punishment/injury and the condition would not have occurred without the punishment/injury.

Penalties – What are the penalties of a Penal Code Section 273.5 violation?

Corporal injury on an intimate partner is a wobbler offense meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the district attorney decides to charge the offense as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on your criminal history and the facts of the case.

If it is a misdemeanor, it is up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $6,000 and you will likely be put on probation. If it is a felony, the fine is state prison of a term of 2, 3, or 4 years and a maximum fine of $6,000 and you will likely be put on probation.

If you have prior convictions for other domestic violence offenses, this will increase the maximum felony prison sentence and the maximum fines you can be required to pay.

If you are not a US Citizen, there are also grave immigration consequences. In most cases, a DV crime will make you deportable and ineligible for change of status.

Defenses – What are the defenses to a Penal Code Section 273.5 violation?

Common defenses to corporal injury on an intimate partner include:


  • Self-Defense or defense of others
    You have a claim of self-defense or defense of others if you:

    (1)Reasonably believed that you or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully;

    (2)You reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and

    (3)You used no more force than reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.


  • Act was not willful

    One of the elements of “corporal injury on an intimate partner” is that your actions were willful. If your actions were accidental, not willful, this may be a defense to the charge.


  • False accusations

    Because intimate relationships are complicated in nature, it is not uncommon for an arrest to be made based on false allegations fueled by anger, jealousy or revenge. A good criminal defense attorney is critical in ensuring that false accusations do not result in a conviction.


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