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273.5(a) PC: Corporal Injury To Spouse

by Shelby Wall

 A PC 273.5(a) domestic violence charge is a serious offense in Orange County, California. These charges can carry heavy penalties and punishments, including years in prison. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can help. 

What Does it Mean to Be Charged with PC 273.5(a)?

Penal Code section 273.5(a) pertains to intentionally harming a spouse or another person with a close, specific relationship. Depending on the severity of the offense, PC 273.5 can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. 

PC 273.5(a) states that someone who purposefully inflicts a physical injury of a specific traumatic magnitude on another person will be found guilty. Sometimes, 273.5(a) PC is referred to as “corporal injury to spouse,” as spousal abuse cases are often brought under this charge.

For 273.5(a) to apply, the victim must hold one or more of the following relationships with the offender:

  • Spouse or former spouse
  • Cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • Current or former fiancé/fiancée
  • Current or former romantic partner as defined in 243(f)(10)
  • Child or presumed child

The traumatic injury inflicted upon the victim includes major and minor injuries caused by physical force. These injuries include external and internal bodily wounds, strangulation, and suffocation. No visible injury is necessary to be convicted of this domestic violence law.

What is the Punishment for Violating PC 273.5(a)?

The punishments can vary depending on whether the offender of 273.5(a) is found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor.

  • PC 273.5(a) Felony: If the party is found guilty of 273.5(a) as a felony, the punishment may include imprisonment in the state prison for two to four years, in a county jail for up to one year, or by a fine of up to $6,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
  • PC 273.5(a) Misdemeanor: If the party is found guilty of 273.5(a) as a misdemeanor, their punishment may include the same fines as a felony, but only up to a one-year imprisonment in county jail.

Depending on the severity of the case and the offender’s prior record, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor or even disprove the charges altogether.

California’s Three Strikes Law

California enacted its Three Strikes law in 1994. This law requires offenders with prior convictions for serious felonies to receive twice the term stipulated for a first-time offender.

A 273.5(a) conviction will typically result in a strike if:

  • The prosecutor charges the offense as a felony
  • The injury was significant

Additionally, if the injury was significant, the offender could be subject to a sentencing enhancement under PC 12022.7, adding three to five years of imprisonment to the sentencing.

Potential Defenses 

If the offender purposefully inflicted a corporal injury that resulted in a traumatic condition, the charges will be difficult to fight. However, not everyone accused of violating 273.5(a) is guilty. 

For example:

  • If the person injures the victim accidentally, this could be used as a successful defense. 
  • Similarly, if the defendant injured the victim in self-defense, their criminal defense attorney may successfully get the charges dropped.

Find Legal Representation in Southern California

If you have been charged with violating PC 273.5(a) in Orange County, CA, you have legal rights. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help answer your questions, explain your legal options, and defend your innocence in a court of law. Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to discuss your case.

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