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Inflicting Corporal Injury on Spouse or Cohabitant: What is the law and punishment?

California Penal Code 273.5(a) "inflicting corporal injury on spouse or cohabitant" is a "wobbler" meaning it may can be charged is either a misdemeanor or felony.  PC 273.5(a) is the most common domestic violence charge.  A conviction can result in numerous consequences to your life if not handled properly.    

What Must Be Proven in a Domestic Violence Case?

PC 496(a) requires the following to be proven:

  1. the defendant willfully inflicted corporal injury on victim;
  2. the victim was the defendant's: spouse, cohabiting with, fiance or fiancee, partner in a dating relationship, or the mother or father of his or her child; and
  3.  corporal injury resulted in a traumatic condition.

 The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that domestic violence occurred.

What are the penalties for a Domestic Violence?


PC 487(a)has a maximum fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 1 year in county jail.  

A conviction or guilty plea will result in a lifetime prohibition on owning firearms.


PC 487(a)PC 487(a) has a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 4 years in state prison.

May be considered a strike on criminal history if involves great bodily injury.

May be considered a serious or violent felony if involves great bodily injury.

What are the defenses to Domestic Violence?

Self-defense and defense of others

The defendant may be justified in inflicting harm if necessary for self-defense or the defense of another.  The defense must prove that the defendant had a reasonable fear that imminent harm would occur to themselves or another and no more force was used than is necessary to prevent the harm.  This may be a defense to domestic violence in a situation where the victim was raising their fists or an object in preparation for an attack.  

The battery was not willful

If the victim was injured because of an unintended accident than the defendant is not guilty of domestic violence.  The defendant must have purposely caused the harm to the victim or set in motion the chain of events that led to the harm.

The victim is falsely accusing the defendant

Domestic battery cases are often he said, she said stories with no other witnesses to the events.  If it can be proven that the victim's story is not factually correct, it may be proven the defendant has been falsely accused and the case should be dismissed.  In order to prove this, the defense may present witnesses that observed events differently from the victim, video or audio recordings of the events, and the victim's own statement to the police can be used to prove a false accusation.

Bottom line, you need an experienced attorney who is willing to walk you through the entire process, evaluate your case effectively for weaknesses and exploit the issues in your case to achieve the best results.  The Law Offices of Steven McNicholl has that experience and will get you through your case in the best shape possible.

See also

PC 243(e)(1) "domestic battery"

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call the Law Offices of Steven McNicholl at (951) 405-0990. We have the skill and experience in San Bernardino County to protect your rights and get the best results in your case.

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