Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
The difference between Penal Code 273.5 PC and Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC rests on whether the domestic violence victim suffered a physical injury. Section 273.5 covers domestic violence that causes corporal injury. Section 243(e)(1) applies to domestic violence that does not cause an injury. Because 273.5 PC involves more serious conduct, the penalties of a conviction are higher.
In California, Penal Code 243(e)(1) defines the crime of committing a simple battery on an intimate partner. Prosecutors have to prove the following elements of the crime:
Note that this form of domestic battery does not need to lead to an injury. Prosecutors do not need to show that the victim was hurt or suffered a physical injury.2 Any harmful contact or offensive touching suffices for the crime.3 The contact can even be indirect, like pushing another object into the victim.4
A person acts willfully if he or she does something:
Conduct is still willful if the person doing it did not intend to hurt someone else or to break the law.6
California Penal Code section 273.5 defines the crime of domestic violence causing the infliction of a corporal injury. Prosecutors have to prove the following elements of the offense:
The physical injury and the traumatic condition that it causes are essential factors in the offense.
Traumatic conditions are wounds or other bodily injuries that are caused by the direct application of physical force. They can be minor or severe.8
A traumatic condition is the result of the physical injury if:
Prosecutors have to prove that the defendant caused the victim’s traumatic condition beyond a reasonable doubt.10
California Penal Code 273.5 PC uses the phrase “corporal injury.” It means any physical injury that was inflicted by force and that causes a traumatic condition.11 Examples include:
Examples of injuries that are not corporal injuries are:
The phrase “corporal injury” is an antiquated term. It was once used frequently in common law. Now, very few states have criminal statutes that use the term “corporal injury.” Instead, they generally use more precise phrases like:
Penal Code 273.5 PC covers violence that produces injuries, while Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC covers violence that did not lead to an injury. Therefore, the penalties for section 273.5 are substantially higher.
Both violations of domestic violence law, however, frequently lead to consequences like:
A criminal defense lawyer can help defendants raise legal defenses, like self-defense or false accusations, to these serious offenses. Establishing an attorney-client relationship and getting the legal advice of a criminal defense attorney from a reputable law firm is essential for beating domestic battery charges, as well as for other related offenses.
Domestic violence causing corporal injury under 273.5 PC is a wobbler in California. This means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. The district attorney has discretion over which charges to file. Prosecutors tend to make the decision based on:
If the injuries inflicted were severe, or if the defendant has a history of abuse, felony charges are more likely to follow.
If pursued as a misdemeanor, the penalties of a conviction are:
If filed as a felony, convictions under these domestic violence charges carry:
Prior convictions can raise these potential penalties.
The potential maximum fine increases to up to $10,000 if the defendant has been convicted of spousal battery under Penal Code 243(e) in the last 7 years.13
The maximum fine increases to $10,000 and the prison range increases to 2, 4, or 5 years if the defendant has been convicted for any of the following criminal offenses in the last 7 years:
If the corporal injury inflicted was a “great bodily injury,” there will be a sentencing enhancement. Under this enhancement, if there was a significant or substantial physical injury, it adds an additional, consecutive sentence of 3, 4, or 5 years.14 It is also a “serious felony” that counts as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law. This doubles the prison term of any subsequent felony.15
These sentencing enhancements are no longer being pursued in Los Angeles County, though.16
There also may be immigration consequences for non-citizen defendants. Domestic violence causing corporal injury is a deportable offense.17
Finally, a conviction under this California criminal law will lead to a lifetime ban against owning or possessing a firearm.18
Domestic battery under Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC, on the other hand, is a misdemeanor under California law. Convictions for these criminal charges carry:
A conviction in these domestic violence cases will also ban the defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for 10 years.19
In order for certain violent crimes to be crimes of domestic violence, the victim has to be an intimate partner of the defendant.
An intimate partner includes:
Cohabitants are 2 unrelated people who live together for long enough to create some permanency in the relationship.21
A dating relationship is one that involves frequent and intimate associations and:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.