California Jury Instructions For Domestic Violence Cases

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJun 13, 2018

This article gives you an understanding of California Criminal Jury Instructions 840 – inflicting injury on a spouse resulting in a traumatic condition. This crime is defined under Penal Code 273.5 PC, known as corporal injury to a spouse. 

When it comes to domestic violence cases in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, one of the biggest things that reasonable criminal defense attorneys do is look at the jury instructions. This is because the jury instructions are what will ultimately be used if a criminal case goes to trial.

California Jury Instructions For Domestic Violence Cases

The Judge will instruct the jury on each element that must be proved to find somebody guilty of a domestic violence case. These jury instructions cover a lot of ground. In other words, they're covering all kinds of different situations – spousal abuse, domestic violence, boyfriend/girlfriend situations, boyfriend/boyfriend, girlfriend/girlfriend, people who are just living together, and married people.

They're going to have to cover everything. I like to break these things down when it comes to these things. The first element to prove somebody guilty of domestic violence is that the defendant must willfully or unlawfully inflict a physical injury on another person – whether their spouse, former spouse, current spouse, someone they're cohabitating with, or even a child.

So, that's number 1. So, what does that mean? You have actually to do something that causes some damage. When the police come out to the scene of a crime, they're taking photographs because they want to see some mark, a laceration, an injury, to prove this first element.

If they can't prove that you have caused some injury to a person, then it's just going to be he said/she said, and they're going to be saying one thing on one side and one thing on another side, then how is a jury supposed to figure that out.

Well, they need some physical injury. If they don't have it, they're not going to be able to prove element no. 1, and without proving element no. 1, then the person would win that domestic violence or spousal abuse case.   Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will explain further below.

Physical Injuries in Domestic Violence Cases

The second thing that has to be proved is that the injury inflicted by the defendant resulted in a traumatic condition. What does that mean? That means you have actually to do some damage there.

Pushing and shoving – through technology, that might be a simple battery -if you're going to try to get somebody for this spousal abuse section which carries all kinds of horrible ramifications – 52-week domestic violence case, jail in some circumstances, a 10-year weapon ban, probation for three years – there's a whole slew of things that come along.

So, if they cannot prove this traumatic injury, then they're not going to be able to prove element no. 3. Also, if the defendant is claiming self-defense or defense of another, then that can be a complete defense to the crime of spousal abuse or domestic violence.

The final element that must be proved is that they have to show that the defendant did not act in self-defense or defense of another. If they can't prove that, it's not going to be a criminal case. This happens all the time. One spouse attacks another, the other spouse is trying to fend the other person off, and during that – because the other person is going so crazy – that person gets hurt. If you're defending yourself and using reasonable force to do so, you're good.

Use of Reasonable Force

Of course, the key is using reasonable force. If you're not using reasonable force – if someone's pushing you and you punch them in the face as hard as you can – that's probably going too far. You've gone too far if someone's trying to hit you and you grab a weapon – a knife or some other weapon and beat the person multiple times. So, the bottom line is this. These domestic violence cases are very politically charged, and they're being accused all over LA County, and the prosecutors will not let them go.

People think they're going to let them go because the other person says they don't want to prosecute it now – no, the prosecutors don't care. So, you have to look at the jury's instructions to see if the person can prove the case. Different elements have to be established in these cases, and there are bench notes and different jury instructions that can be given. I've been doing this for 25 years. I've had a lot of success.

So, that's why if there's a case where my client has a good defense, I'm going to go to the jury instructions and this particular jury instruction is a Cal Prim jury instructions – that's what the judicial council has instructed all the judges to use throughout San Fernando Valley.

It's Section 840, and it's entitled Inflicting Injury on Spouse, Cohabitant, a Fellow Parent Resulting in Traumatic Condition, Penal Code 273.5 PC, and if they can't prove that, then they're going to have to dismiss the case. If they don't prove it in front of a jury, then the jury will find the defendant not guilty of any crime.

Retain a Criminal Defense Lawyer 

So, if you have a case and you think you have a close one and can win it, then we're going to get the jury instructions out because that's what the judge is going to do. The judge will instruct the jury on those jury instructions, and that's what the jury is going to take back with them when they go back to decide whether someone's guilty or not guilty.

That's where the Hedding Law Firm comes in. That's why you and I will go over those injury instructions, and we're going to see if they can prove every element. If they can, we're going to work out a plea agreement. If they can't, we're going to figure out our defense.

We're going to fight the case. We're going to put on witnesses. We're going to put it on evidence. We're going to attack the prosecution's evidence because you have a presumption of innocence. That's one of the jury instructions they're going to get too. You're presumed innocent before the case starts, and if they can't show a difference in domestic violence or spousal abuse situation, you should be found not guilty.