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Inflict Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant

Penal Code 273.5(A) Defense


PC 273.5(a) Law

The most common domestic violence criminal charge in California is found at penal code section 273.5(a) Inflict Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant. To be found guilty of PC 273.5(a), the prosecutor must prove that the defendant willfully inflicted an injury to his or her spouse or cohabitant, which resulted in traumatic condition.


For purposes of PC 273.5(a) a spouse may be a current or former spouse and a cohabitant is a person who is unrelated to the defendant but who is living with the defendant and in a relationship. A cohabitant may be proved by different types of evidence, including, but not limited to: the defendant and victim have a long-term cohabitation, the defendant and the victim share household expenses or income, the defendant and the victim hold themselves out to be in a relationship, etc.


A traumatic condition as used in PC 273.5(a) means a wound or bodily injury, even a minor injury, which was directly caused by the defendant. Soft tissue injuries and unapparent injuries will not suffice to charge PC 273.5(a) against the defendant.

In the case of unapparent injury to spouse or cohabitant the district attorney will usually file misdemeanor domestic violence charges under PC 243(e)(1) [Domestic Battery] as an alternative to felony PC 273.5(a) charges.


PC 273.5(a) may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony but the charge is almost always filed as a felony. Whether or not the district attorney files a misdemeanor or felony version of PC 273.5(a) depends on many factors, including the level of apparent injury sustained to the victim and the criminal history of the defendant. As stated above, if there is no injury noticed on the victim in a domestic violence case the district attorney will usually file misdemeanor domestic battery charges under PC 243(e)(1). 


Sentence for PC 273.5(a)

If found guilty of the crime of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant as a felony under PC 273.5(a) the defendant may face up to four years in prison. If the defendant is found guilty of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant as a misdemeanor under PC 273.5(a) the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail.

Felony PC 273.5(a) is considered a strike offense according to California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law, which means that the defendant may suffer enhanced penalties for subsequent felony convictions. For example, upon a first conviction for PC 273.5(a) the defendant is entitled to fifty percent (50%) credit off his or her sentence for good behavior while in custody. However, a subsequent felony conviction (with a PC 273.5(a) prior conviction) will entitle the defendant to only a twenty percent (20%) credit off his or her subsequent conviction sentence for good behavior while in custody.

Probation Sentence for PC 273.5 Crimes

Probation sentences are allowed in PC 273.5 cases. Probation is a period of supervision and can include some jail time; however, jail sentences that are ordered as part of a probation sentence for PC 273.5(a) convictions may generally be served on house arrest or work release and the amount of time is usually much less than any prison sentence.

Note: if the defendant is not granted probation for a felony conviction of PC 273.5(a) the defendant must serve his or her prison sentence in an actual California state prison, not a local county jail. This is true even if the prison sentence is relatively short. Also, PC 273.5(a) sentences may not be split (half in-half out prison sentences) or suspended (See PC 1170h Sentencing).


Collateral Punishments for PC 273.5(a)

In addition to any possible prison or jail sentence, if convicted of PC 273.5(a) Inflict Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant, the defendant may suffer any or all of the following punishments: requirement to attend domestic violence batterers classes, order to pay enormous fines and penalties, be placed on probation (or parole after a prison sentence), suffer domestic violence restraining orders, lose a professional or occupational license, lose immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), be ordered to pay restitution orders, incur civil and family law legal consequences, and more.


Defenses to PC 273.5 Crimes

Defenses to the charge of Inflict Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant charged under PC 273.5(a), include, but are not limited to, the following: improper police procedure, (coerced confessions, illegal search and seizure, etc.), insufficient evidence to prove injury or the defendant's state of mind, self defense, defense of other people (including the victim), necessity (necessary injury to prevent a greater harm), mistake of fact, statute of limitations (three (3) years in felony cases and one (1) year in misdemeanor cases), alibi, severe intoxication, insanity, and more.

Note: For PC 273.5 crimes, the fact that the victim changes his or her mind about "pressing charges" is not a defense to the crime. In fact, in PC 273.5 cases, the district attorney is always ready to deal with the fact that many victims of domestic violence have a change of heart against pressing charges against the defendant. In Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant cases when the alleged victim does not desire prosecution the District Attorney will simply prosecute the crime with any available evidence, including, 911 calls (even from the alleged victim), third-party witness statements, evidence of injury, statements made to police at the time of incident (including alleged victim's statements), criminal history of the defendant, and more.


If you or a love one is charged with domestic violence, or inflict corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant under PC 273.5(a) or 273.5(f), contact our domestic violence defense attorneys today for a free and private consultation. Our attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of domestic violence crimes and our criminal attorneys are available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call today!  



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Corporal Injury to Spouse Defense: PC 273.5(a)

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Domestic Violence Related Crimes

  • PC273.5(A)-F Inflicting Corporal Injury to Spouse
  • PC273.5(F)-F Corporal Injury to Souse w/Prior
  • PC 243(e)(1)-M Domestic Battery
  • PC 245 Assault
  • PC 242 Battery
  • PC 422 Criminal Threats
  • PC 664/187(a) Attempted Murder
  • PC 368 Elder Abuse
  • PC 273a(A) Child Endangerment
  • PC 243(e)(1) Battery to Spouse or Cohabitant
  • PC 273.6(a) Disobey a Court Order in DV Case

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PC 273.5(a): Inflict Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant

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California Penal Code 273.5(a) & 273.5(f)(1) Domestic Violence / Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant


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