The criminal acts of domestic violence and corporal injury on an intimate partner involve many actions. Domestic violence (DV) is a pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate relationship utilized by one of the partners to obtain or keep control over their spouse or cohabitant. Corporal injury is an element present in various DV crimes, making it difficult to understand the type of charges you will face after arrest. In this article, we explore domestic violence and how it differs from corporal injury.
What is the Difference Between DV and Corporal Injury?
The kind of injuries sustained is the key difference between domestic violence and corporal injury. Corporal injury is a type of DV that results in some sort of physical trauma or injury. On the other hand, domestic violence doesn’t require the victim to sustain visible or physical injuries. The severer the injuries caused by an act of DV, the stricter the penalties, meaning corporal injury conviction carries harsher repercussions than a sentence for a DV offense.
Various Forms of DV
California has multiple domestic violence offenses, and there are laws in place that protect citizens against perpetrators of these criminal acts. These offenses are:
Under California PC 243(e)(1), it is a crime to illegally and deliberately utilize physical power or violence towards a cohabitant. The crime committed here is spousal battery which might be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Note that if you violate PC 243d by causing severe bodily harm than the one sustained under PC 243(e), you will face harsher penalties.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse
California defines corporal injury as any visible, bodily, or verifiable harm that results in a traumatic condition. The presence of corporal injury in a case can be a component of corporal injury to a spouse as outlined under PEN 273.5. Causing corporal injury is what makes PC 273.5 a stricter offense than domestic battery.
Other forms of DV include child endangerment and corporal injury to a child. Also, DV might occur in tandem with PEN 273d, child abuse. And considering child abuse is a serious offense, being charged with the crime and battery could result in harsh sentencing.
Moreover, although the element of corporal injury exists in many domestic violence offenses, some acts might still count as DV even if the victim hasn’t sustained any visible bodily harm. This means that DV is made up of a series of criminal acts while the offense of corporal injury is just a tiny element of these DV crimes. And because of the component of visible injuries that cause a traumatic condition, an offense involving corporal injury is the severest form of DV.
Legal Definition of Corporal Injury
A corporal injury is any visible, physical or verifiable harm that results in a painful condition. The cause of the visible damage is irrelevant in this case, regardless of whether you utilized a weapon. Also, the severity of the bodily harm caused is unrelated. The only elements the prosecuting team has a burden of demonstrating are:
- Visible or physical harm was the probable or natural cause of the traumatic disorder
- The harm was the direct causation of the traumatic situation
- And that if it were not for the bodily harm, the traumatic disorder would never have occurred
What are these corporal injuries? Examples of corporal injury include a concussion, a bone fracture, a laceration, a strained muscle, or a bullet wound. However, harm or losses like emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from violence, property damage, financial losses, or any application of physical power that doesn’t cause a visible mark or verifiable internal injuries.
Domestic Battery and Corporal Injury
Another common form of DV is the domestic battery. The significant difference between domestic battery and corporal injury against a spouse is the existence of the corporal injury component. The offense of domestic battery is defined under PEN 243(e)(1) as the application of physical power or viciousness against any of the following individuals:
- Your child’s parent
- Someone you are dating
The offense is a form of DV, but you can be guilty even if the victim didn’t suffer considerable pain or harm. The only crucial element that must be present in these cases is the application of violence towards an intimate partner.
The offense of domestic battery is in contrast to PEN 273.5, which is a severer offense as the victim must sustain some verifiable or physical injury. And because of its severity, the offense is filed as a wobbler. The prosecuting team might opt to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on the case’s nature.
Nevertheless, domestic battery, being a lesser offense, is charged as a misdemeanor. Therefore, if you compare PC 243(e)(1) and PC 273.5 in terms of penalties, you will realize a significant difference in the consequences or repercussions of a conviction.
The penalties provided under PC 243(e)(1) are:
- No more than twelve months of county jail incarceration
- Monetary court fines of as much as $2,000
Alternatively, the judge controlling your case might impose misdemeanor probation in place of spending time behind bars. The informal probation comes with various conditions, which are:
- A batterer’s intervention program, also known as domestic violence classes
- Any other suitable counseling program if the batterers treatment program isn’t available
Furthermore, the court could impose restrictions on contacting the victim by setting a protective or restrictive order.
In contrast, the punishment for corporal injury to a cohabitant depends on the prosecuting team's charge. If they choose a misdemeanor, a conviction will attract penalties like those of a domestic battery conviction. However, the penalties for a felony conviction will be stricter. They include an upward jail term of twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight months incarceration in state prison. In addition, the judge might order you to pay a monetary court fine of six thousand dollars downwards on top of or in place of the prison incarceration.
Additionally, you risk sentence increment if you have a prior sentence for any of the following criminal acts in the past seven years:
- Domestic battery
- Corporal injury towards a cohabitant
- Sexual battery
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Assault resulting in significant bodily harm
- Assault using a firearm
- Assault using a corrosive chemical
It’s worth noting that a corporal injury that causes great bodily injury (GBI) will attract further sentence enhancement. According to PC 12022.7, corporal injury with GBI attracts a supplementary and consequent prison sentence of three, four, or five years.
In addition, the offense is categorized as a serious felony, meaning you will obtain a Strike on your criminal record. Luckily, prosecutors rarely pursue enhanced sentencing for cases with the element of corporal injury in existence.
Both PC 243(e)(1) and PEN 273.5 are forms of DV and therefore attract other repercussions like:
- Community hours
- Protective order
- Alcohol or substance abuse treatment program
- A dent on your criminal record
- Social stigmatization
A conviction for any form of DV can alter your life completely. Apart from paying hefty fines and spending time behind bars, a sentence will result in a criminal record that will follow you wherever you go. If it’s a job you are looking for, college education, leasing an apartment, or obtaining a job promotion, the criminal history will disadvantage you, making it challenging to start over. However, with the help of a criminal attorney, you could build solid and valid legal defenses that will prevent a conviction, thus safeguarding your future.
Valid Defense Strategies for Domestic Violence
DV charges, including any acts that result in corporal injury, have multiple defenses, but the most common ones are:
You Were Acting in Self-Defense
The law allows you to use reasonable force to repel any force towards you or another person. However, you must have a reasonable belief that applying force will deter significant harm on you or another person. In these circumstances, violent criminal acts like homicide, DV, or assault are justified. This is known as an affirmative defense, and for it to be justifiable, the following components must be present in your case:
- You were reasonably convinced that you or another party were at risk of offensive touching or severe bodily injury
- You believed in good faith that you had to apply physical force to deter or repel the force applied
- You only used reasonable force under the circumstances and not more than what was necessary to repel the force applied towards you or someone else
Your attorney can utilize this defense where the prosecuting team lacks sufficient evidence to convince the jury you were not acting in self-defense.
The Injury Was Accidental
Accidents happen all the time. Unfortunately, you might hurt an intimate partner accidentally and still face domestic violence charges. Criminal attorney law firms exist, for this reason, to ensure that innocent people are not convicted for accidental acts that result in corporal injury.
Recall, the prosecutor must demonstrate the element of willfulness in the conduct that amounts to domestic violence. If they cannot prove that your actions were deliberate, your defense law firm can swing into action and poke holes in the prosecuting team’s evidence. That way, they can raise sensible doubt in the jury’s mind that your actions, as the defendant, were accidental, and there are no circumstances in the case that may suggest the harm sustained by the victim was willful.
You Were Wrongly or Falsely Accused
Multiple DV cases involve false or wrongful allegations. The accusers in these cases are often angry intimate partners attempting to gain control over the offender in child custody or divorce cases. Also, the accuser might be acting out of vengeance, and that the corporal injuries or harm sustained were accidental or inflicted by another party.
Unfortunately, when police officers are called to respond to domestic violence cases, the arrests ensure the alleged victim’s safety most of the time, meaning even innocent people end up in jail. After filing the charges, even if the victim recants their initial statement, the law enforcement authorities might decide to pursue the case independently. It means without proper legal representation; you may face conviction for an offense that was an accident or caused by another party.
However, with proper legal counsel, you can provide facts that prove you didn’t engage in the act of DV. With a strong relationship with your attorney, they can better understand your case and circumstances and mount the appropriate defenses for the kind of DV offense charges you face. The stakes are high when there is the element of corporal injury present in the case, as it attracts harsher punishment that can have brutal repercussions on many of your life’s aspects like career and social life, making an attorney crucial in your case.
Plea Bargains for a Lesser Charge
Domestic violence offenses attract severe penalties, but your attorney can negotiate a plea deal for a lesser offense. These lesser offenses include criminal trespass and disturbing peace and help prevent the social stigma and the brutal repercussions of a conviction. By pleading guilty to a lesser charge, you enjoy several benefits, which are:
- Maintaining the right to possess a weapon
- No deportation or inadmissibility like in a DV conviction
- Retaining custodial rights
Another way your legal team can avoid a conviction is by obtaining a deferred entry of judgment. Instead of sentencing you to jail, the judge defers the decision and sends you to a domestic violence program. When you complete the program, the DV charges will be dismissed, and it will appear as if you have never been arrested. Your qualification for this program depends on the kind of charge you face, where you reside, and your criminal record.
An experienced attorney will walk you through these options and find out if any of them is available in your case.
A conviction for DV can cut you off your family and cause you to lose your home. Therefore, whenever you are faced with these allegations in San Diego, you should call the Domestic Violence Attorney Law Firm for help. We will convince the prosecuting team not to file charges, and if charges have already been filed, we can negotiate a plea deal for a lesser offense. Also, even if the case reaches the trial stage, we will convince the jury of your innocence. Contact us today at 619-393-8588 for a free consultation.