California Penal Code § 273.5 PC makes inflicting “corporal injury” on an intimate partner that results in any physical injury, regardless of the severity, a criminal offense. This offense requires some physical injury. In certain situations, domestic violence may be charged as a felony under § 273.5.

Domestic violence crimes are “wobblers,” which means that the prosecution may charge them as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the attendant circumstances. The prosecution considers the underlying facts, including the extent of the victim’s injuries and the accused’s prior criminal history when deciding whether to file felony or misdemeanor charges.

Domestic violence crimes require a special or unique relationship between the accused and the victim that is typically prior in time and intimate. A person with whom the accused has, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship. The victim must be a spouse or former spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, a fiancé or fiancée, or the mother or father of the accused’s child.

California law focuses on protecting intimate partners from domestic violence. Thus, several criminal offenses in California are associated with domestic violence. These offenses may have severe consequences for those accused. The assistance of an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is crucial to achieving the best possible result for anyone charged with a domestic violence crime.

Other felonies require serious or great bodily injury. California public policy and law have shielded persons in intimate relationships with greater protection by requiring less harm to be inflicted before a domestic violence offense is committed.

The following are five situations where domestic violence may be charged as a felony under § 273.5:

*Inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition against an intimate partner

A traumatic condition is a wound or other bodily injury caused by the direct application of physical force. A minor wound or injury that results from the physical contact is enough to merit criminal charges.

In People v. Abrego (1993) 21 Cal. App. 4th 133, the defendant slapped his wife several times. However, these physical actions did not result in any evidence that indicated even a minor injury. Although the wife experienced soreness and tenderness, there were no grounds for felony charges since any injuries suffered by the wife did not constitute a traumatic condition, and therefore not even a minor injury, as required by the statute. The husband was still found guilty of a misdemeanor.

*Inflicting an act of force likely to cause great bodily injury against an intimate partner

California Penal Code § 245(a)(4) PC makes committing an assault upon the person of another by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury a felony crime against any person, not just an intimate partner. It is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.

* Inflicting an act of force causing serious bodily injury against an intimate partner

Under California Penal Code § 243 PC, when a battery is committed against any person and serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery may be punishable as a wobbler. It is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment for two, three, or four years.

*Committing an act of domestic violence with prior battery or domestic violence conditions

California Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC, also known as domestic battery, makes it a misdemeanor to inflict force or violence on an intimate partner. This offense does not require any visible injury. If the accused commits another act of domestic violence within seven years of committing an offense under § 243 (e), the prosecution may charge the most recent act as a felony under § 273.5. If the accused commits an act of domestic violence within seven years of committing specific assault and battery crimes, the prosecution may charge the most recent act as a felony under § 273.5.

John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.

When Is Domestic Violence A Felony?

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