Earlier this summer, Avery Robinson and two family members got into a fight at Disneyland. According to reports, a tense verbal argument between the three escalated into a physical brawl. No arrests were made at the time of the altercation. However, police were able to investigate the matter, thanks to a witness who recorded the fight on a cell phone.
After reviewing the footage, police located Robinson and arrested him for his role in the brawl. The state argues that he endangered his sister, brother-in-law, child, and girlfriend – along with three other children present at the park – during the fight. He was subsequently charged with corporal injury on a spouse, among other things.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse is a Crime of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can be defined as a crime that’s committed against someone with whom you share a special relationship. In California, this can include spouses (both current and former), children, parents, other relatives, dating partners, and even roommates. The state takes crimes of domestic violence very seriously. Prosecutors will put a lot of effort into getting a conviction in these types of cases.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse, as defined by California Penal Code 273.5(a) PC, occurs when “any person willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” on a current or former:
- Cohabitant, or
You can also be charged with corporal injury on a spouse if the victim is the mother of your children.
That’s pretty complicated language. Here’s what it means.
Willfully Inflicts: Willful behavior is something that’s done intentionally and on purpose. In other words, you can’t be guilty under 273.5(a) PC if you hurt your spouse accidentally.
Corporal Injury: Corporal injury simply means a physical, bodily injury.
Traumatic Condition: The assault on a spouse, fiancée, or cohabitant must cause a traumatic condition. California defines a traumatic condition as a “wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct application of physical force.”
Spouse, Cohabitant, or Fiancée: It’s not enough to inflict a physical injury on another person. Under 273.5(a) PC, the victim has to be the defendant’s spouse, cohabitant, or fiancée.
A spouse is someone to whom you’re legally married. A fiancée is someone to whom you’re engaged to be married. But what’s a cohabitant?
In California, cohabitant means “two unrelated persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of the relationship.” A lot of different factors can be used to determine if someone is a cohabitant. These can include:
- A sexual relationship
- Shared income and expenses
- Self-application of relationship labels, such as “girlfriend” or “boyfriend,”
- The length of the relationship.
The state has to prove all of these elements in order to get a conviction under Penal Code 273.5(a) PC.
Is Corporal Injury on a Spouse a Felony?
It can be. In California, corporal injury on a spouse is a wobbler. This means that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the specific crime. Aggravating factors, such as serious bodily injury or the use of a deadly weapon, might cause the state to pursue felony charges.
As a misdemeanor, corporal injury on a spouse is punishable by up to 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail and up to $6,000 in fines.
As a felony, corporal injury on a spouse is punishable by between two and four years in a California state prison and up to $6,000 in fines.
You might also be sentenced to a term of probation if convicted on charges for corporal injury on a spouse.
If you have previous convictions for the same offense or other violent crimes within the past 7 years, you might face aggravated penalties.
How Can I Defend Charges of Corporal Injury on a Spouse?
Allegations of corporal injury on a spouse are serious. You should immediately speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer for help. Why? The state has the burden of proving that you’re guilty. Hiring an attorney can level the playing field and make the prosecutor’s job much more difficult.
Your attorney will carefully review and investigate your alleged crime. They’ll determine which defenses are best suited for your particular case. This might include arguing:
- False accusation
- Mistaken identity
- The alleged victim was not a spouse, fiancée, or cohabitant
- The alleged victim didn’t suffer a traumatic condition, or
- You acted in self-defense or in defense of a third person.
You can always challenge the validity of the state’s evidence if it was gathered in violation of your Constitutional rights through an illegal search or seizure.