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Corporal Injury in California Law
(Penal Code Section 273.5)

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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“Corporal injury” refers to any physical harm that results in a traumatic condition. Physical harm usually means visible or verifiable damage, whether minor or severe. The infliction of bodily injury elevates the crime to the level of domestic violence crimes.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • The amount of force used is not important. It does not matter if the force was inflicted by a weapon or firearm. What matters is that the force produced a traumatic injury to the victim’s body.
  • Several more states utilize “corporal injury” as a component in a civil lawsuit for compensation after an assault or battery.
  • The first component of the Criminal Code specifies that the offense must have been committed “purposefully.

A man in a wheelchair in an officeCorporal Injury is when you willfully inflicted physical injuries on your intimate partner, and the great bodily injury results in a traumatic condition [1].

The amount of force used does not matter. It does not matter if a deadly weapon like a firearm was involved or if any other weapon was used either.

It does not matter if the force only caused a minor or significant bodily injury. What matters is that the force produced a traumatic injury to the victim’s body.

Corporal injury examples are:

  • A broken bone
  • A bullet wound
  • A ligament sprain is when a ligament is damaged
  • A strained muscle is when a muscle is damaged
  • A bruise
  • A cut
  • internal bleeding
  • A concussion

Examples that ARE NOT corporal injuries:

  • Post-traumatic stress from violence (PTSD)
  • Emotional instability
  • Property damage or vandalism
  • Financial losses
  • Physical contact that did not leave a mark or cause any internal injuries

Physical harm can be a part of an illegal act such as assault or battery. It is an element of the domestic violence felony of causing bodily injury to a spouse or live-in partner (Penal Code 273.5 PC in California).

Related Articles:

California Penal Code Section 273.5 – Corporal Injury

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The California Penal Code Section 273.5 is the section that defines corporal injury. It deals with the penalties for anyone who causes bodily harm to another person. Here’s a summary of the legislation to help you understand what corporal injury entails.

Intention to Harm

A person getting stressed by another personThis is the first element of the California Penal Code 273.5 law which means that the person who did it intentionally knew it was wrong and planned to do it. They didn’t do it by accident, but they intended to cause the victim pain.

The intention, in this case, doesn’t mean they set out to kill or maim their victim. It simply means that they knew their actions would result in some physical pain for the other person.

For example, Bill and his wife got into an argument while driving home from dinner. Bill was so angry that he purposely swerved the car off the road, causing his wife to hit her head on the dashboard. Bill knew his actions would cause his wife pain, even though he didn’t intend to injure her seriously.

Related Article: Differences Between Intentional Torts & Negligence


It’s well-known what constitutes a spouse and what constitutes a mother or father. What isn’t so clear is the meaning of “cohabitant.”

A cohabitant is not only a roommate under the watchful eye of the law.

The law examines several factors to determine whether two persons are cohabiting, such as:

  • Joint ownership or lease of a residence
  • Sharing of incomes
  • Significant time spent together in close association with one another

For example, Sarah and John have lived together for over two years in Sarah’s house. They share all their bills and contribute equally to the mortgage. They are considered cohabitants.

Traumatic Impact

A man staring at a woman scaringlyThe next element of the crime is that the person who did it must have caused a “traumatic condition.”

A traumatic condition is the probable consequence of a physical injury. The injuries can be any kind of wound – big or small, internal or external, that was caused by using physical force. Other injuries also include things like concussions and dislocations.

For example, Alex and his girlfriend got into a heated argument that quickly turned physical. Alex grabbed his girlfriend by the throat and squeezed as hard as he could until she passed out.

When she woke up, she had bruises all around her neck. This situation is an example of a “traumatic condition” and corporal injury on a spouse.

Related Article: Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuits

Personal Injury Cases

In many personal injury cases, the victim may be able to sue the person who caused their injuries for damages. This is usually done in civil court rather than criminal court [2].

The burden of proof in civil court is lower than in criminal court, which means that the victim only needs to show that it’s more likely than not that the other person is responsible for their injuries.

Related Articles:

See all related personal injury and accident lawsuits our lawyers have taken on.

Two office persons shaking hands

If the victim wants to press charges, the PC 273.5 allows charges to be brought against anyone who causes bodily harm to one of the following alleged victims:

  • The defendant’s current or former spouse
  • The defendant’s current or former cohabitant
  • The defendant’s fiancé,
  • Anyone with whom the defendant has had a dating or intimate relationship with
  • The parent of your child.

A corporal injury charge is more serious than a simple domestic battery.

If these criminal charges are dealt with as a misdemeanor, they result in the following penalties:

  • Facing up to one year of jail time in county jail 
  • With or without a fine of up to $6,000 [3].

If the defendant is convicted of a felony, the penalties for such an offense will be:

  • Facing up to 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison
  • With or without a fine of up to $6,000.

If the domestic violence did not result in any physical injuries, the charge would be for inflicted corporal injury on a spouse or domestic battery. This offense prohibits using violence or force on an intimate partner without permission.

A spouse battery is always a misdemeanor and a felony conviction that results in:

  • Up to one year in county jail 
  • A fine of up to $2,000 (optional).

If the defendant has a history of domestic abuse, this can lead to harsher sentences. Domestic violence convictions often result in harsher penalties.

Additionally, domestic violence charges may result in the following legal issues:

  • Restraining orders or protective orders
  • Child custody challenges
  • The labeling as a batterer is stigmatizing.

If the defendant’s criminal history has a prior conviction of the following, they might have to go to state prison for a long time:

  • Corporal injury to a spouse,
  • Assault with a deadly weapon,
  • Spousal abuse,
  • Assault causing bodily injuries,
  • Sexual battery or domestic violence in California.

“The consequences of any conviction of corporal injury on a spouse will most likely include a restraining order or protective order, prohibiting making contact with the victim for up to 10 years.” – Eisner Gorin, State and Federal Criminal Defense

A man holding a book

People who have been accused of inflicting corporal injury on somebody can use legal defenses to try and clear their names. Criminal defense attorneys will use the most common defenses to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Some of the most common defenses are:

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of someone else, like a child
  • The victim is lying about what happened.


What are some examples of corporal injury?

Some examples of corporal injury include hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, biting, burning, choking, and hair-pulling.

What’s the difference between a corporal injury crime and domestic violence crime?

The difference between corporal injury crime and domestic violence crime is that corporal injury is defined as any physical harm that is inflicted on another person. This can include things like bruises, cuts, or broken bones. On the other hand, domestic violence crimes are typically charged when the victim suffers from some emotional or psychological harm. This can include things like threats, intimidation, or stalking.

Is corporal injury a felony?

Yes, corporal injury is a felony. The penalties for this crime can be very severe, especially if the victim is seriously injured.

Related Article: What is Felonious Assault?

What constitutes corporal injury?

A corporal injury constitutes an unlawful act that results in a traumatic situation after someone causes physical harm to another person. 

The penalties for this crime can be very severe, especially if the victim is seriously injured. If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is important to talk to a law firm or a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP legal team if you have any queries about Penal Code 273.5(a) or have been charged with corporal injury. Our experienced attorneys will provide you with a free case evaluation.





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