Corporal Injury to Spouse – California Penal Code 273.5
This is the main Penal Code Section related to domestic violence case for those individuals who are arrested and prosecuted for spousal battery. As the name indicates you’re typically going to see this charge filed when the individuals involved are married or living together or have children together.
So, it’s more of a family-type situation where you’re going to see this spousal battery charge filed versus a boyfriend/girlfriend situation where the people are living together. That’s going to be charged under Penal Code Section 243(e)(1).
So, this is the main section. It is a wobbler charge, meaning it could be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. The dividing line on whether it’s filed as a felony or a misdemeanor has to do with the injury.
Obviously, if there’s a serious injury like a broken bone — some sort of a mayhem-type situation where there’s a permanent injury — an injury that would require stitches would definitely count, or if the person has a prior conviction for 273.5 or any domestic violence-related offense, then they’re likely going to be charged with a felony. In more serious cases, the prosecutor could allege a great bodily injury in a domestic violence case.
Domestic Violence Incident with Serious Injury
Otherwise, if it’s just a minor injury or something not requiring stitches or a cast, it’s going to be charged as a misdemeanor and that particular person would be looking at up to a year in custody, domestic violence course for 52-weeks, probation and other particular punishments depending on what happened, what the person’s criminal record looks like, whether alcohol was involved — there’s a whole host of things that the prosecutors take into consideration in these domestic violence-related offenses.
Another thing that’s interesting about them and I think unique is that each branch or courthouse has a VIC Unit – a victim impact unit – which basically means, all those prosecutors do is prosecute domestic violence-related offenses. So, that makes it a lot more difficult for a defendant to slip through the cracks.
I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years. A lot of times someone might be guilty of the crime but you’re able to keep them out of jail and get some lesser charge in the past or even get the case dismissed. But not anymore.
Now, the prosecutors who sit in the regular courthouses throughout Los Angeles county will not touch a domestic violence case because they’re going to let the VIC unit, the specially-assigned prosecutors who just do domestic violence cases deal with the case.
It’s going to be a particular prosecutor’s individual case which means they’re going to give the case individualized attention. They’re going to look at it hard and of course, they’re going to be looking at punishing the defendant and deter the defendant from committing future domestic violence-related acts.
And also ,they see it’s one of their jobs in one of these California Penal Code 273.5 cases to protect the victim, protect the kids and protect the family. So, a lot of times they put orders in place to keep the defendant away from their family.
Full Protective Order Against You
Now in Los Angeles county, if you’re arrested and sent into court for a domestic violence-related offense, when you go to court typically the prosecutors are going to be seeking a full protective order against you, meaning you cannot go near your spouse or significant other while the case is pending.
This is a huge problem for most people because they may live with their spouse. They may have kids. They may have nowhere else to go, so your attorney has to start working on this right away.
A lot of times I will have my client enroll in a domestic violence program before the court because that’s one of the things the judge will consider in determining whether or not to do a full protective/stay-away order versus a level one protective order which allows the person to see, still live with the person that’s on the other side and still cohabitate with them without being kicked out of the house and putting themselves in a very difficult position related to their family.
So, there’s a whole host of different things to be considered when you’re charged with a domestic violence case. That’s why in my opinion it’s so important to get an attorney right from the beginning who already knows what type of an attack the prosecutors are going to mount against you and who already knows what you’re going to be facing based on the allegations of what you are claimed to have done.
Realize that when the police arrive on-scene, they’re already looking to start to preserve evidence. They’re going to take pictures of any injuries on the other party. The LAPD are all equipped with body-cams.
So, their body cam is turned on as soon as they exit their vehicle in a domestic violence situation, so everything is going to be captured on that body cam — anything you say, anything the alleged victim says, anything witnesses say.
Develop a Defense Strategy in a Domestic Violence Case
This is the type of stuff you’ve got to be ready for and you have to know whether or not you really want to get that information because sometimes it can be very hurtful to the defendant.
The prosecutors are usually too lazy to grab that information and really look at it because if they do and they get a sense of it and they feel like the situation is more serious than what was originally thought, they’re going to punish the defendant for that.
So, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into defending a domestic violence case and there’s no question that you want a top-level best domestic violence attorney in your corner.