California residents benefit from learning the basics of the criminal laws that can affect both them and their families. Under the statute of California Penal code § 273.5 dealing with domestic violence, the "infliction of injury on present or former spouse or cohabitant or parent of child," a defendant can wind up in the penitentiary if the case is prosecuted as a felony.
Statue 273.5 specifically addresses domestic violence incidents where the alleged victim suffers a "serious injury" as a result. Additionally, the alleged abuse resulting in serious injury must be willfully inflicted, and the victim and accused must have a domestic relationship -- a spouse, former spouse, a former or present cohabitant or the other parent of the accused's children. The corporal injury inflicted must result in a "traumatic condition."
California prosecutors have some leeway with this particular statute; they can prosecute the offense as either a misdemeanor or felony. Obviously, it's always better when they prosecute as a misdemeanor. One factor that might influence the decision is past history of prior domestic violence convictions. Misdemeanor convictions carry a maximum of a year in county jail, coupled with fines up to $6,000.
Even when the crime is prosecuted as a felony, a criminal defense attorney can sometimes negotiate a misdemeanor conviction as part of a plea bargain. Felony convictions can result in incarceration in a California penitentiary for up to four years, with fines as much as $6,000.
The California criminal courts take multiple domestic violence convictions very seriously. Those facing this charge with prior domestic violence convictions can expect even harsher punishments if convicted again of this offense. Penalties include as long as five years behind bars in state prison and $10,000 fines. Other factors that can bring even more drastic consequences upon conviction include the following:
- The accused used a deadly or dangerous weapon to commit this corporal injury
- The accused has been sentenced before to prison
- The accused has prior strikes, according to California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law
There is great latitude in the wording of "corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition." Under Pen C § 273.5, where the defendant is accused of abusing an opposite sex cohabitant, the vaguely defined "traumatic condition" can be any external or internal wound that was caused by physical force and is minor or serious. Under those definitions, even a minor visible injury can be a violation. This is in contrast to charges of felony battery, under Pen C § 243, subd. (d), which states that the battery must result in serious bodily injury, and also charges of felony assault. Pen C § 245, subd. (a) stating that the alleged assault requires a use of force that is most likely to inflict a great bodily injury to the victim. But under the Corporal Injury statute, there is a lower standard for the degree of harm inflicted to allow law enforcement to intervene in domestic disputes more quickly.
By the passage of this particular statute, whether by design or in error, the California legislature provided opposite sex partners in intimate relationships with more legal protection because less harm is required to be inflicted on them even before the alleged offense has been committed.
Domestic battery cases, whether or not they involve serious injuries, often are prosecuted against the alleged victim's will. Many times couples reconcile, especially if there are minor children from their union. Even when there are no children involved, these prosecutions can disrupt lives. If the major breadwinner is tossed into jail, the alleged victim can suffer further damages like eviction, repossession of vehicles, and utility cut-offs when the bills don't get paid because one partner is in jail.
The courts can intervene even further, causing deeper fissures in marriages and relationships, by issuing protective orders. These orders make it a violation for the accused and the alleged victim to reconcile or even be in close proximity with one another. Protective orders can prevent the accused from spending time with the minor children, fracturing families even further.
It would be logical to assume that if the alleged victim requests that charges be dropped, the authorities would comply. However, this isn't the case in Southern California. The prosecution won't dismiss cases even when victims refuse to cooperate.
We Can Help
We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll are familiar with the ways the courts tip the scales of justice in favor of the accuser over the accused. Mr. Voll is not only a criminal defense attorney but also married with two children. He has an intimate understanding of marital and family dynamics, the qualifications to thoroughly investigate your case and is able to vigorously defend you in court. Those facing spousal abuse charges can arrange a free in-person confidential consultation by calling our Los Angeles law firm at 323.467.6400.