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PENAL CODE 273.5 (PC 273.5)
Domestic Violence


The California Penal Code defines Domestic Violence with the following description:


"Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony..."


Basically, PC 273.5 requires some kind of bodily injury to be inflicted on a person with whom the defendant currently has, or previously had, a domestic relationship. The offense is sometimes referred to as


  • Domestic Abuse
  • Spousal Abuse
  • Spousal Battery


The Infliction of Corporal Injury


Inflicting corporal injury under Penal Code 273.5 means a willful use of violent force. Examples would include hitting, punching, kicking, slapping or pushing. By willful, the statute means that the force must be done deliberately, as opposed to accidentally. An accidental shove, in the course of trying to get away from someone, for example, would not be a "willful" infliction of force.


Domestic Violence Injury Requirements


Penal Code 273.5 PC requires that the defendant produce a traumatic condition for the victim. This means "a wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct application of physical force." The key is that there must be some visible injury on the person's body. The injury could range from a minor scratch, redness, swelling or bruising to a very serious injury such as a broken nose or a concussion.


The typical Penal Code 273.5 PC case starts with a heated argument that becomes physical. The alleged victim (or a neighbor) calls 911 and summons the police. Officers arrive and take a statement from the victim alleging that some sort of violence was used against him/her.


The officers examine the victim to see if a visible injury (or "traumatic condition") can be observed. If so, it is protocol to photograph the injury on the scene. The photos, along with the officers' report, are sent to the prosecutor's office to be used as evidence in court.


Only a very slight injury is necessary to make a Penal Code 273.5 PC case. If no injuries can be observed, the prosecutor can still file charges under Penal Code 243(e)(1). This a similar California domestic violence statute, but one that does not require a visible injury. On the other hand, if a very serious injury is sustained, the prosecutor can file a 273.5 PC charge along with a "great bodily injury" enhancement. This makes the case more serious, and the potential jail or prison time much longer.


Other Penal Codes for Domestic Violence


  • CA Penal Code 242 PC242) : Battery - any willful or unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.
  • CA Penal Code 243 (e) PC 243(e) : Battery against a spouse, cohabitant, parent of the defendant's children etc.
  • CA Penal Code 240 PC240 : Assault - an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability to commit a violent injury etc.
  • CA Penal Code 136.1 PC136.1 : intimidation of victims and witnesses.


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