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Corporal Injury to Spouse – California Penal Code 273.5

Posted by Philip Israels | Sep 03, 2019

The domestic violence offense of “corporal injury to spouse” is defined under California Penal Code Section 273.5. It's described as willfully inflicting a physical injury on a spouse or intimate partner and commonly called “domestic abuse.”

It should be noted Penal Code 273.5 corporal injury to spouse is similar to California Penal Code Section 243(e), domestic battery. The difference between these two laws is the extent of injuries that are suffered by the victim.

The term “corporal injury” means some type of physical injury that results in a traumatic condition, which is a condition of the body. It could include a wound, internal injury, broken bones, or severe bruising.

In order to be convicted of PC 273.5 corporal injury to spouse, you would need have inflicted bodily injury using physical force. The injury doesn't have to be serious.

An example of a Penal Code 273.5 case in Los Angeles County includes a domestic violence incident where a husband and wife become engaged in a heated argument. During the verbal insults, the husband aggressively pushes his wife to the floor, where she strikes her head on a table, causing a cut.

She calls the police and tells them what happened and the officers observe the cut and bleeding.

It should be noted that it is common for a wife to regret calling the police and will ask for the charges to be dropped. Victims can't drop domestic violence charges. After the police are involved, all decisions on criminal charges are the decision of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. There are certain situations when the prosecutor could be open to a reduced charge for domestic violence through plea negotiations.

To give readers useful information on Penal Code 273.5 corporal injury to spouse charges, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers providing an overview below.

Definition of Corporal Injury to Spouse – Penal Code 273.5

Corporal injury to spouse is defined in California Penal Code 273.5 PC as follows:

  • Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition on a victim described in subsection (b) is guilty of a felony crime. If convicted, they will be punished by imprisonment in a state prison for two, three, or four years, or in county jail for up to one year, or a fine up to $6,000, or both.

Any PC 273.5 charge means you caused injury to an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, a cohabitant, or parent of your child. A “cohabitant” is defined as two people who are unrelated that have been living together for some length of time in a relationship.  Factors that are considered to determine if a victim was a cohabitant include:

  • The length of the relationship
  • Sharing of income or expenses
  • Joint use and ownership of property
  • Sexual relations in same home
  • Two people representing themselves as partners

The term “willfully” contained the definition above means on purpose. Again, a traumatic condition is described as a wound or bodily injury that was caused by use of physical force. The injury does not have to be serious or life-threatening, but it must be a “natural and probable consequence” of the injury.

A false imprisonment charge can be filed against you in a situation where you unlawfully deprive someone of their personal liberty. This essentially means intentionally detaining another person without a legal right to do so, and they aren't allowed to leave when they want to.

Domestic violence offenses with firearms can result in assault with a deadly weapon charge. Aggravated trespassing is defined under Penal Code 601 PC.

Penalties for Corporal Injury to Spouse – Penal Code 273.5

In order to be convicted of corporal injury to spouse under California Penal Code Section 273.5, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime listed in CALCRIM 840 Jury Instructions. 

PC 273.5 is a “wobbler,” meaning the case can be filed by the prosecutor as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. They will base this decision on the circumstances of the case and your prior criminal history. It should be noted that if the victim sustained serious injuries or you have a history of domestic violence, the case will be filed as a felony.

If convicted of a misdemeanor case of PC 273.5, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, penalties include up to one year in a county jail,  a maximum fine of $6,000, and probation. If convicted of a PC 273.5 felony case, penalties will include up to 4 years in a California state prison, a fine up to $6,000.

If the victim sustained serious injuries, you could be facing a great bodily injury enhancement (GBI) under California Penal Code 12022.7.

Penalties for a felony conviction can be increased if you have a prior conviction in the past 7 years for corporal injury on a spouse, domestic battery, assault causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, or sexual battery.  Also, under Assembly Bill 3129, you will lose your gun rights permanently if convicted of a Penal Code 273.5 misdemeanor or felony case.

Related California Offenses 

Penal Code Section 243(e) – Domestic Battery
Penal Code Section 243(d) – Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Penal Code Section 273a – Child Endangerment
Penal Code Section 368 – Elder Abuse
Penal Code 415 – Disturbing the Peace
Penal Code Section 240 – Assault
Penal Code Section 242 – Battery
Penal Code 601 and 602 – Trespassing

Defenses for Inflicting Corporal Injury to Spouse

Our experienced Los Angeles domestic violence lawyers have a wide range of legal defense strategies to obtain the best possible outcome on your corporal injury to a spouse case under Penal Code Section 273.5. Every domestic violence case is unique and will need to be closely reviewed in order to determine an effective strategy. Common defenses include:


A common strategy to challenge PC 273.5 charges is to argue you were acting in self-defense or defense of another person. Perhaps we can make an argument you only used force in order to defend yourself because of a reasonable belief you were in imminent danger of suffering a bodily injury and you had to use force against the danger, and didn't use more force than necessary.

No Intent 

Another common defense includes an argument you had no intent to inflict injury on the victim. The injuries may have been sustained due to an accident, which can be a valid defense to corporal injury to a spouse charges. In the legal definition above, you must have “willfully” inflicted corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. Perhaps our attorneys could prove the injury was caused by an accident and you never intended to inflict an injury.

False Accusation

There have been many cases where someone has been wrongfully accused and falsely arrested. This is especially true in domestic violence related incidents where a victim will make false allegations due to revenge or anger. In some cases, false allegations are made during a child custody battle because the victim believes it will give them an advantage. Perhaps we can show through evidence you have been falsely accused.

Learn How We Can Defend You 

If you have been charged with corporal injury to spouse in violation of California Penal Code Section 273.5, you need to call our defense lawyers. We have a track record of success in all types of domestic violence related cases, know the best defenses, and will work to achieve the best outcome on your case.

If convicted of domestic violence, you might be ordered to pay victim restitution for any losses suffered by a victim due to your conduct.

It might be possible to get your charges dismissed or reduce to a lesser offense, such as simple assault charge or misdemeanor battery. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley. We need to review the details of your case to determine legal options during a free case evaluation.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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