Great Bodily Injury During a Domestic Violence Incident
The crime of corporal injury to a spouse is described under California Penal Code Section 273.5 PC as willfully inflicting a physical injury that resulted in a traumatic condition on an intimate partner. In most cases, the victim's injuries are visible and include internal injuries.
Common examples of injuries that would fall under the umbrella of PC 273.5 include serious bruising, a broken nose, or even a concussion caused by a direct application of physical force. If the victim sustains a great bodily injury, described as a significant physical injury, the domestic violence case is much more severe.
The prosecutor might allege an enhancement that would elevate the charge as a “strike” under California's three-strikes law, discussed further below. The victim could be a current or former spouse, cohabitant, girlfriend, boyfriend, or a parent of the defendant's children.
A common myth is that the victim can drop the charges. They don't have the authority, and it's simply not their decision. Even if the victim decides they don't want to pursue charges, the prosecutor will most likely file charges anyway, especially if there were severe injuries.
The primary reason is that prosecutors assume victims only want to drop charges because of coercion from the defendant. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are reviewing the law below for more information.
Definition of PC 273.5 Corporal Injury to Spouse
California Penal Code 273.5 PC defines corporal injury on a spouse as follows:
- “Anyone who willfully inflicts a corporal injury on an intimate partner resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim is guilty of a felony crime.”
This domestic violence-related crime must occur on an intimate partner, including defendants:
- spouse or former spouse,
- cohabitant or former cohabitant,
- current or former fiancée,
- someone defendant dated or used to date,
- mother or father of the defendant's child.
A “corporal injury” broad term includes severe bruising, broken bones, cuts and abrasions, broken ribs, internal bleeding, and more. Under California law, Penal Code 273.5 PC corporal injury to a spouse is directly connected to domestic violence. It is commonly referred to as many other names, such as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battery on a spouse, felony domestic violence, and corporal injury on a domestic partner.
Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,
Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,
Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
Penal Code 243d PC – aggravated battery,
Penal Code 236 PC – false imprisonment.
Definition of a PC 12022.7 Great Bodily Injury Enhancement
California Penal Code 12022.7 PC defines a great bodily injury sentencing enhancement as follows:
- “Any person who personally inflicts a great bodily injury on someone while committing a felony, or attempting to commit a felony, shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of in state prison for three to six years.”
As stated, a great bodily injury (GBI) is defined as a significant or substantial physical injury. Put simply, if you caused a severe injury on your spouse requiring some medical treatment, the prosecutor could allege a GBI that would make you eligible for a sentencing enhancement PC 12022.7.
Great Bodily Injury is a “Strike” and Three Additional Years in Jail
This is a big question on many people's minds because the extraordinary bodily injury allegation takes the case from a misdemeanor to a felony. Any case in Los Angeles county where somebody has to admit a great bodily injury automatically becomes a strike. It will be on your record for the rest of your life.
Further, that great bodily injury allegation related to domestic violence will add three additional years on top of whatever sentence you get for the domestic violence case.
What it does is it puts you in a terrible position. It puts you in a really bad category of offenders because domestic violence cases have been politicized for many years, especially in Los Angeles County and throughout California.
The prosecutors who handle these cases are specially trained. They typically get the case from the beginning and stay on the topic through its end. That way, they can look at every angle, protect the alleged victim in the case and make sure that the person charged with a domestic violence crime is punished accordingly.
Defending Domestic Violence Cases in Los Angeles
So, you're going to need somebody who has handled these cases for many years. I've been handling domestic violence cases in Los Angeles County for almost three decades. I've taken many cases where a great bodily injury allegation has been added on top of a domestic violence charge. I can tell you that:
- sometimes these domestic violence cases are overblown;
- sometimes the great bodily injury isn't a great bodily injury, and
- the person was protecting themselves in the act of self-defense and
- the alleged victim caused great bodily injury to themselves by acting and what they were doing.
So, we have to look at all of the circumstances surrounding the case, and we have to put things in a perspective that takes into account your side of the story. Unfortunately, what happens all too often is that the police come out to the scene. They have strict instructions that if it's a domestic violence situation and anybody has been injured, they will arrest the aggressor.
So, what ends up happening is that they determine who the aggressor is, but sometimes they need help. Sometimes they have to call out a Sargent, give the Sargent all the information and details, and let the Sargent decide who the aggressor is.
Great Bodily Injury Allegation Involving Aggressor
When it comes to great bodily injury, if somebody is seriously injured, has broken bones, a bad cut — any other great bodily injury-type injuries automatically, the aggressor will be the person who inflicted those injuries. They end up doing, and it's not fair, that they now slant the whole case towards the person they believe caused great bodily harm and who was the aggressor in a domestic violence situation.
It's not right because they don't get the other side of the story. Sometimes you don't slant the whole story against somebody because other things are going on. Unfortunately, the police are not sophisticated enough to grab some of the facts that help the person who is being accused.
So, that's where a criminal defense attorney comes in. Now, I need to grab those facts use those facts to try to mitigate the situation. Sometimes those facts can be used to defend the problem entirely; other times, they're going to be used to mitigate the situation and try to get rid of that extraordinary bodily injury allegation and even try to get the case knocked down to a misdemeanor if possible.
So, what I would suggest you do, if you or a loved one is charged with a domestic violence case and there's a great bodily injury allegation attached, it's crucial that you get an attorney like me who's handled these cases time and time again and got great results for my client. Pick up the phone and make the call. We'll have you come in. We'll go over everything, face-to-fact the privacy of my office, and we'll design a plan to protect you, your rights, your reputation, and your freedom.