Corporal injury to spouse is a specific crime defined under California’s penal code. To commit this crime, you must willingly cause physical injury to your intimate partner or spouse. It is one of many crimes that falls under the umbrella of domestic violence. Like all domestic violence crimes, a conviction carries serious penalties. It’s important to talk to a lawyer right away if you have been charged with this crime.
There is another similar crime in California’s penal code called domestic battery. Though the definition is almost the same, the exact charge changes depending on how serious the injuries are. Corporal injury charges can be leveled if you cause a serious or minor injury that leads to trauma. You have to use physical force to inflict an injury or you can’t be convicted of this crime. The injury doesn’t need to be serious for you to be convicted.
One serious note is that once charges have been filed against a person, the victim no longer has the right to drop the charges. That means that if you accuse your partner of injuring you and then later regret it, you can’t stop the legal process. This is the case for the majority of domestic violence violations in the state of California.
In addition to your legal spouse, you can also be charged with this crime for acting against an intimate partner. That might include an ex-spouse, a person you live with, a person you’re engaged to, or someone you’re raising a child with. If you live with another person, you must have lived together for long enough to have a very serious relationship.
In order to determine whether someone who lives with you qualifies as an intimate partner, the court will consider factors such as:
- Whether the people involved had sexual relations
- Whether they shared household expenses or income
- Whether they have any jointly used property
- How long the relationship has lasted
- Whether the people told the police they were partners when the initial charges were filed
The definition of the law says that the injury must be inflicted willfully. That means that the partner intended to inflict it. In order for the injury to count as “traumatic,” it must have caused some kind of bodily injury or wound. Since there’s no requirement for the injury to be serious or life-threatening, this charge is usually not as serious as domestic battery.
Injuries might include things like sprains, bruising, a concussion, a broken nose, a black eye, or internal damage.
Penalties for the Crime
This crime can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the case. The prosecutor will decide how to charge you based on how serious the injuries were, whether you have a prior criminal history, and any extenuating circumstances they decide are relevant. Felonies are typically charged to people who cause serious injury or who already have a prior history of committing domestic violence.
With misdemeanor charges, a conviction might lead to a maximum of one year in jail. You can also be forced to pay up to 6,000 dollars in fines. For felonies, the fines are the same, but the prison sentence is a maximum of four years. You will also be subject to longer penalties for a felony if you have already been convicted of a domestic violence crime in the past.
Defending Against the Charges
A defense attorney will create a legal strategy based on the facts available. The prosecution is required to prove that a willful injury was inflicted. There are several available defenses depending on the circumstances.
One of the most common defenses is self-defense. If you were defending yourself against the threat of violence during an argument, you might not be guilty of corporal injury. You might also be able to use a self-defense charge if you believed that another person was in danger of being harmed or touched unlawfully. In order for the self-defense strategy to work, the lawyer must show that you only used as much force as was necessary.
Another common defense is lack of intent. If you did not intend to injure the victim, you might not be guilty of corporal injury. Essentially, if the injury was an accident, you have a legitimate defense. The prosecutor has to prove that the injury was inflicted intentionally.
Yet another defense is being falsely accused. There are some situations in which people level false accusations of corporal injury against their spouse due to anger. Another reason this might happen is because a person wants to get a legal advantage during a bad child custody fight. A skilled lawyer can use evidence from the accuser’s social media, texts, or emails to prove that the accusation was false.