Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant PC 273.5

A disagreement is one thing. But when someone ends up hurt, serious criminal charges may result. If you’re facing a charge of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5), make no mistake — you’re in legal hot water.

Fortunately, the team at our San Diego criminal defense firm can help you fight these charges. Talk with an attorney at Elite Criminal Defense if you are charged with corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant.


California Penal Code Section 273.5 – Corporal Injury to Spouse

California law designates corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant as using willful physical force to inflict a physical injury that results in a traumatic condition. The alleged victim in this case can be a spouse, roommate, dating partner, parent, or the other parent of your child.

Other related charges may also be filed against you if you are facing these charges. Talk to a trusted law firm about your options to avoid these charges and others, along with other penalties you could face like jail time or a protective order.

Legal Definition of Corporal Injury to Spouse

“Corporal injury” is just a fancy way of saying “injury.” The injury you allegedly caused to your spouse, cohabitant, or other relation doesn’t even have to be serious in order for you to be charged with this offense. It just has to exist.

Remember that corporal injury to a spouse is also a “wobbler” offense. That means you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on your criminal history, the severity of the domestic abuse, and other details of the case against you.

For example, if the domestic violence charges included the presence of a deadly weapon or potentially deadly actions such as strangulation or suffocation, you may be charged with a felony. But if the injury was extremely minor and you have little to no criminal history, you may face a misdemeanor.

Legal Penalties for Corporal Injury to Spouse

Under PC 273.5 (corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant), you can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Each outcome comes with its own set of potential penalties.

And don’t be fooled by the sound of “misdemeanor” — legal penalties for both misdemeanor and felony charges can be harsh, including jail or prison time, high fines, and a criminal record that can haunt you for decades.

Let’s look more closely at the consequences you may face if you’re convicted of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant:

  • Misdemeanor corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant
  • Fines of as much as $6,000
  • As long as a year in county jail
  • A combination of the above
  • Felony corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant
  • Fines of as much as $6,000
  • A prison sentence of two, three, or four years
  • A combination of the above

Keep in mind that, if you have recent convictions for certain related offenses, the potential penalties you face could be even more severe.

Related Offenses

A charge of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant is often accompanied by other charges arising from the same incident. These related offenses may be felonies or misdemeanors, and they can have devastating effects on your future if you don’t find a way to fight back.

Below are a few related offenses you may also be charged with:

If you are facing any of these charges or other related charges entirely, a trusted attorney at our firm can provide guidance on your best next steps.


Who Is Considered an ‘Intimate Partner’?

California law recognizes that not every partner involved in domestic violence cases is a spouse. In some cases, state law mentions an intimate partner, but what does that mean for you?

An intimate partner refers to any person you have an intimate relationship with. That includes a spouse, co-parent of a child, and a cohabitant for a significant period of time, potentially among others.

What Must the Prosecution Prove to Successfully Convict a Defendant Charged Under PC 273.5?

If the prosecution wants to pin these charges on you, they will need to prove a few key elements of the crime. 

First, they need to prove you acted “willfully” to inflict physical injury. Essentially, that means your actions were on purpose and not an accident or something you were forced into (such as through self-defense).

Second, they will need to prove that the alleged victim of your actions was an intimate partner as defined under the law.

And third, the prosecution will need to prove that the injuries resulted in a “traumatic condition.” This does not mean that the injury needs to be serious. It simply means that the prosecution needs to prove that you directly injured the victim through physical force.

Those are the basic elements the prosecutor will need to prove in order for a corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant charge to stick. And most defenses will focus on disproving one or more of those elements.

What Are the Penalties for Penal Code 273.5 PC?

If you are convicted, you may face serious penalties for violating Penal Code 273.5 PC. These penalties can haunt you for a lifetime, even after you have completed your sentence.

Misdemeanor Penalties

Do not mistake a misdemeanor conviction for a lack of real penalties. You may still face serious losses if you are convicted of a misdemeanor.

First, you may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail. You may also face a fine of up to $6,000. You will also have a criminal record, which can impact various areas of your life for years.

Felony Penalties

A felony conviction for corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant can mean two, three, or even four years in a state prison, as well as fines of up to $6,000.

Even after you are released, you may face difficulties avoiding further penalties caused by your criminal record, which will appear on a background check.

Felony Penalties with Prior Convictions

If you have a criminal record, the penalties you face for a corporal injury to spouse conviction may be even more severe than those listed above.

For example, if you have a conviction on your record in the past seven years for sexual battery, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a stun gun, assault or battery with a caustic chemical, assault or battery resulting in serious bodily injury, or corporal injury to a spouse, you could face the following legal penalties for a new conviction for corporal injury to a spouse:

  • Fines of as much as $10,000
  • As long as two, four, or five years in prison or one year in county jail
  • A combination of the above

And if you have been convicted of spousal battery in the past seven years and now are convicted of corporal injury to a spouse, you could face the following penalties:

  • Fines of as much as $10,000
  • As long as two, three, or four years in prison or one year in county jail
  • A combination of the above

Probation Conditions for a Penal Code 273.5 Conviction

In some cases, judges in California can offer probation instead of jail or prison time if you’re convicted of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant.

And while that is often a preferable alternative to incarceration, keep in mind that probation in California comes with strict conditions. You’ll have to follow those conditions or else risk severe criminal penalties.

Some examples of probation conditions for a Penal Code 273.5 conviction include the following:

  • Paying fines
  • Giving financial restitution to the alleged victim
  • Community service
  • Going to a year-long class on domestic violence
  • A short time in jail
  • Compliance with a strict restraining order
  • Following all California laws

Keep in mind that probation often lasts as long as three years for a misdemeanor and five years for a felony.

Legal Defenses Against Corporal Injury on a Spouse Charges

The key to reducing the severity of the criminal penalties you face — or avoiding them completely — is building a strong defense against your corporal injury to a spouse charge.

But that’s easier said than done, which is why many people in your situation reach out to a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

Each case warrants a unique defense, but some of the most common defenses to this charge include the following:

  • Self-defense. You may not have intended to harm them, but because they were attacking you during a heated argument, you may have acted to avoid injury to yourself or others.
  • Accidental or indirect injury. Proving that the injury in question was not willful or direct can act as a strong defense against this charge in some cases.
  • False accusations. Sometimes, current or former partners or other close relations may make false accusations in order to hurt you. Proving that this is the case can work strongly in your favor in court.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse FAQ


What is probation, and why would I want probation instead of serving time in jail?

Probation can allow you to essentially skip your jail sentence and live in your home with certain strict guidelines. Any violations of the conditions of your probation, however, can land you behind bars.

While it’s not the same as getting your charge dismissed completely, probation can be a preferable alternative to time in jail or prison.

How long will I be on probation if I am placed on probation for violating PC 273.5?

The length of your probation will depend on the specifics of your case. For example, probation for felonies can go on for much longer than probation for misdemeanors.

As a rule of thumb, probation for a misdemeanor corporal injury on a spouse charge can last for one to three years. And probation for the felony version can last for three to five years.

What is a corporal injury on a spouse?

A corporal injury typically refers to a visible or noticeable injury. Often, these are bruises, scratches, broken bones, facial injuries, and head trauma, such as a concussion. However, that does not mean all corporal injuries are visible. For example, the alleged victim may claim you kicked them in the stomach, and now they are suffering internal bleeding and severe pain.

What does it mean to inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant?

To inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant means to cause some form of notable bodily harm. That may include surface injuries, such as a scratch or bruise, or severe or even life-threatening injuries, such as internal organ damage.

If you have been accused of harming your spouse in this way, our attorneys are ready to help. We understand how devastating these accusations can be and are here to help you fight this charge.

What if I am placed on probation and I violate any of the terms of my probation?

A violation of your probation can have serious negative consequences. You may be subjected to a probation hearing, and if that doesn’t go in your favor, you could be left to finish your sentence or part of it behind bars. You may also be subjected to high fines.

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