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California Laws on Inflicting Corporal Injury | Penal Code 273.5 PC

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Inflicting corporal injury is the act of willfully and unlawfully inflicting injury upon another resulting in a traumatic condition. This charge ordinarily results in domestic violence disputes within the household with a cohabitant, spouse, dating partner, or another person with whom you share a relationship.

Corporal injury is like a domestic battery but it carries the additional requirement that the purported victim is placed in a traumatic condition.[1] Codified under penal code 273.5(a) pc, corporal injury is categorized as a wobbler allowing the prosecutor to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor.[2]

Contrary to popular belief, a person may find themselves prosecuted even though the purported victim expressed no desire for prosecution. The prosecutor has the sole decision-making ability to continue pursuing prosecution regardless of the alleged victim’s desire.[3]

Elements of Inflicting Corporal Injury

In California, to prove someone is guilty of inflicting corporal injury, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant willfully and unlawfully touched the purported victim;
  1. The touching placed the alleged victim in a traumatic condition;
  1. Defendant was not acting in self-defense in the defense of another.[4]

What is the Punishment for PC 273.5(a)?

PC 273.5(a) is usually punishable with probation and/or jail sentence. The length of the jail sentence or terms of punishment largely depends on the level of injury the alleged victim received. If the purported victim suffered great bodily injury, additional sentencing enhancements will apply.

As noted above, a person may be convicted of this offense as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor carries up to one (1) year in the county jail whereas a felony carries up to four (4) years in state prison. A conviction also carries a fine amount of up to $6,000.


Furthermore, the court will impose restitution for any economic loss suffered by the alleged victim – i.e., medical bills or loss of work hours.

Collateral Consequences

Defending Corporal Injury Charges


Someone acts in self-defense, or defense of another if they reasonably believe harm was imminent. Self-defense is a common defense against domestic battery charges because it normally involves an aggressive or heated encounter with the purported victim.


Touching another on accident or through misfortune does not mean a person acted willfully since the touching was not done on purpose. Or there could be attenuating circumstances that negate this element.

False Accusations

False accusations are far too common among spouses or persons within a dating relationship. In most instances, accusers attempt to utilize the system against the defendant to obtain a successful result in child custody disputes, business deals, alimony, or for revenge after an affair or caught cheating.

Traumatic Condition

The purported victim must suffer a traumatic condition – i.e., some form of injury because of the incident. The injury must fall within the natural and probable consequences doctrine finding that your intentional conduct was the substantial factor in causing the purported victim’s injury.

However, acts of third parties, such as independent criminal conduct, or unforeseeable conduct on part of your accuser may be intervening acts cutting off liability.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

When arrested, or charged with PC 273.5(a), there’s no question that you need a skilled and experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer.  Early retention of counsel could make the difference between a lengthy jail sentence or having the charges dropped completely.

Contact us to schedule a free confidential case evaluation. Our office handles all domestic violence charges and we’ve not only saved clients holding professional licenses, but saved thousands of dollars in fines and fees.

John Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist. This rare achievement has only been obtained by a small percentage of criminal defense attorneys in California. He has an unmatched understanding of California domestic violence laws. He stands ready to intervene at any stage of the case.

Legal References:

[1] The term “traumatic condition” is defined as a wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct application of physical force.  See CALCRIM No 840.

[2] (a) Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in subdivision (b) is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.


[4] See same CALCRIM No. 840.

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