Corporal Injury on the Spouse - Penal Code 273.5

If you have been charged with violating California Penal Code §273.5, it is important that you understand the parameters of the charge and the gravity of your situation. In times like this, an experienced defense attorney can be crucial in helping you receive the best possible result.


 Corporal Injury on the Spouse [273.5 PC] is California’s primary domestic violence law and, as such, can result in a variety severe punishments including fines, loss of gun ownership rights, jail or prison time, and even deportation if you are a legal alien.

Depending on your criminal history, the punishment can be more severe. For example, if you have been convicted of a similar offense within the past 7 years, you could serve up to 5 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. This does not mean a first-time conviction is a mere slap on the wrist—even a first-time conviction can result in up to 4 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $6,000.


In order for you to be found guilty, the prosecutor must first prove you actually committed the crime as laid out in California Penal Code §273.5. This means they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you inflicted physical injury upon either:

(a) your current or former spouse;

(b) your current or former cohabitant (i.e., a roommate); or

(c) the mother or father of your child.

In addition, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully inflicted the injury and that the injury resulted in a “traumatic condition.” In order for an act to be considered “willful” you must have intended to commit the act that resulted in the corporal injury, which does not necessarily mean that you intended to commit the corporal injury itself. This is a nuanced area of law that, again, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to work to your advantage. According to the law, a “traumatic condition” is “a condition of the body, such as a wound, or external or internal injury…whether of a minor or serious nature.”[i] In other words, any injury that is apparent or can be detected by examination will suffice—even something as slight as a scratch or a bruise.