In domestic violence cases, the victim's injuries or lack thereof play a significant role in how a defendant is charged and sentenced. Because not all domestic violence victims sustain injuries, California law distinguishes between two types of domestic violence charges: spousal battery, which does not require the victim be physically injured, and corporal injury on a spouse, which does.
How Victims' Injuries Affect Sentencing
Spousal battery is understandably the less serious of the two offenses and is typically charged as a misdemeanor. Corporal injury on a spouse, however, is a more serious offense and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Because felonies typically carry harsher sentences than misdemeanors, it's important to understand just how California law defines “injury”. This is a great question because “injury” can have many meanings. But for the purposes of domestic violence law in California, an “injury” is referred to as a traumatic condition. Now let's look at how the applicable statute defines traumatic condition.
Under California PC 273.5, a traumatic condition is defined as:
“…a condition of the body, such as a wound, or external or internal injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by physical force.”
The statute also defines strangulation or suffocation as:
“…impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a person by applying pressure on the throat or neck.”
As you can see, the definition of traumatic condition is fairly broad and covers both minor and severe injuries. Thus, the severity of the injury doesn't necessarily determine how a defendant is charged, but it could affect the penalties the court will impose on the defendant, which is why it is so important to thoroughly understand the definition of a traumatic condition under the applicable statute.
How Can the Victim Prove He or She Suffered From a Traumatic Condition?
Now, it is important to understand proving a traumatic condition isn't always easy, especially if the victim did not immediately seek medical care following the incident. Evidence in domestic violence cases can be tenuous and short-lived in duration. Bruises can quickly fade, and some assaults do not leave evidence of injury at all. Because of this, you should speak with an attorney if you are facing domestic violence charges and the victim is claiming injury. An attorney can obtain the information that could affect how you are charged and sentenced so you can determine if the victim is making false allegations that you inflicted injury. Such allegations are not uncommon, and they should be fought to ensure you are not unfairly charged and sentenced.
What About Minor Injuries?
When we think of “trauma,” we typically think of life-threatening injuries that require emergency medical treatment. While these types of injuries could warrant a corporal injury on a spouse charge, minor injuries can, too. You should also keep in mind that the victim's injuries need not be visible to be considered traumatic. But the prosecuting attorney must present evidence that demonstrates the victim suffered from an injury. Typically, the prosecutor can do this by producing medical records and 911 call recordings that address specific injuries.
Speak with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney if you are facing domestic violence charges. Whether you are being charged with spousal battery or corporal injury on a spouse, what you did to the victim can affect your sentencing. Unfortunately, domestic violence victims sometimes call the police over nothing more than a gentle shove or for being pushed out of the way. These actions might not constitute domestic violence. For this reason, it is vital you speak with an attorney about your case. An attorney can help you understand what your charges mean and the penalties the court can impose on you. An attorney can also help you build a defense to your charges based on the severity of the offense.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in domestic violence defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and can aggressively advocate on your behalf in court. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.