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How to Successfully Defend Against a Corporal Injury to a Spouse Domestic Violence Charge

California Penal Code 273.5 defines corporal injury to spouse or cohabitant as the intentional infliction of corporal injury that results in a traumatic condition upon the following kind of people -

  1. Spouse, or a former spouse
  2. Cohabitant, or a former cohabitant
  3. Fiancé or fiancée
  4. Mother or father of his or her child (California Legislative Information, 1982)
Defenses Available Against a Corporal Injury to Spouse Charge

If you are facing a charge under section 273.5, you can avail yourself of any of the following defences. You are innocent until the prosecution proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty.

1. Self-Defence

Self-defense is a right of every human being to defend themselves agaist injury. If a person believes that someone is trying to cause bodily injury to them, they have a right to defend themselves. It is important that such a threat of injury must be imminent.

The person who is attacked has a right to use reasonable force to defend themselves. If a person is attacked by their spouse and during the struggle the person injures his or her spouse while exercising his right of self-defence, that is a complete defence to the charge. In such a case he or she cannot be held liable.

Self-defence is an affirmative defence. That means that the defendant has to prove it applied and has the burden of producing evidence to support the defence. However, because self-defence is a complete defence to a charge of domestic violence, if the jury believes the accused defended his or herself, they must vote to acquit.

2. The Injury was caused due to an Accident

It is a principle of legal jurisprudence that if an act is committed by a person by accident, that is not a crime.

In a domestic violence case, can defend yourself the act was the result of an accident or accidental conduct. For example, if a boyfriend and girlfriend went to hug each other, but one person slipped and took the other person to the ground with them, causing injury, that would be an accident. Even if the partner got hurt, that is not domestic violence.

3. Coercion, Compulsion, and Duress

In order to prevail using this defence, you must prove that you were compelled by the actions of another person to commit such crimes. This is what the expression “with a gun to” one’s head suggests. Basically, the actor had no choice.

You must prove that the threat made by another person places you in reasonable fear of imminent death or injury and you acted because of such threat and the fear it caused.

4. There is Insufficient Evidence

The prosecution must prove with the help of evidence that you are guilty beyond all reasonable doubts. If there is not enough evidence to prove the charge, the prosecution will fail.

5. False Accusation

You can contest that you are falsely accused of such a crime. Unfortunately, domestic violence laws are abused. A person may falsely accuse their spouse to remove them from their lives, to get custody of their children, for financial gains, or to get revenge.

How to Deal with a Charge of Corporal Injury to Spouse:

If you are charged under PC Section 273.5, you can take the following actions –

  1. Hire an attorney to represent you and advise you on legal matters.
  2. Investigate the case by taking witness statements and compare them to the allegations in the police report, looking for inconsistencies.
  3. Review the video, audio and photographic evidence for inconsistencies.
  4. Provide mitigation to the DA to show you are an otherwise good person and that the charge is inconsistent with who you are or anomalous.
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