Corporal Injury on a Child in California (Penal Code 273d)

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 Is It Illegal to Hit a Child in California?

Corporal injury on a child is a specific type of child abuse that is considered a criminal offense in California. Under California Penal Code Section 273d, corporal injury on a child is defined as an intentional or deliberate act done to inflict serious bodily harm on a child that results in a traumatic condition.

This statute defines a child as any minor who is younger than the age of 18. If a parent punishes their child in a way that is determined to be cruel or injures the child in a way that causes a traumatic condition, they may face serious legal consequences. These may include a term of imprisonment or being stripped of some or all of their parental rights.

A single incident of lightly spanking a child will not likely rise to the level of this offense. However, repeatedly striking a child hard or striking them with an object may lead to severe legal penalties.

Is Child Abuse the Same as Corporal Injury on a Child?

Corporal injury is a specific subcategory of child abuse that may involve:

  • Pushing;
  • Choking;
  • Shaking;
  • Burning.

In order to convict a defendant of corporal injury on a child, the prosecution must show:

  • That the defendant willfully inflicted cruel or inhuman physical punishment or injury on a child;
  • That the punishment or injury resulted in a traumatic condition, for example, broken bones, internal bleeding, concussion, etc.

This offense is categorized as a domestic violence crime. However, the two types of offenses have different elements that the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction.

In a domestic violence case, a prosecutor only has to show that a harmful or offensive touching occurred or a simple battery incident. In cases involving corporal punishment in California on a child, however, the prosecutor has to prove that an actual physical injury resulted from the act.

A domestic violence charge is considered to be the less serious offense of these two. However, both offenses may still result in a felony conviction for a defendant.

How Will the State Show Traumatic Physical Condition?

The state, or prosecution, will show traumatic physical condition by showing that a traumatic physical condition resulted from a punishment or injury by satisfying the following elements:

  • The wound or bodily injuries were caused by the punishment that was inflicted on the child;
  • The traumatic condition was a direct and substantial factor in creating the child’s injury;
  • The condition would not have occurred without the defendant’s actions.

There are different types of evidence that the prosecution may use to prove the element of traumatic physical condition, including:

  • A muscle sprain, fracture, broken bones, and various other physical injuries;
  • Medical reports and hospital bills that are associated with the injury;
  • Physical objects, for example, if a bat or belt was used to inflict the injury;
  • Testimony from witnesses;
  • Photos or video of the incident; and
  • Any other documents or evidence that show the defendant was the individual who was responsible for creating the injuries by using direct physical force.

Is Child Abuse in California a Misdemeanor or Felony?

In California, corporal injury to a child is classified as a wobbler offense. A wobbler offense is a criminal offense that may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case.

A wobbler crime also means that a prosecutor or judge has discretion to choose whether the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor crime or a felony crime. A defendant who has been charged with inflicting corporal injury on a child may be convicted of a misdemeanor offense if:

  • They have no prior criminal history;
  • It was a one-time incident;
  • The act was not too severe, for example, a hard slap.

In contrast, a defendant will be charged with a felony if they:

  • Are a repeat offender;
  • Have abused the child more than once;
  • Used a weapon to punish the child.

There are also other factors that may be examined in order to determine whether a defendant is charged with a felony or misdemeanor, including:

  • The severity of the child’s injuries;
  • The type of medical attention that was required;
  • The level of pain that was inflicted.

It is important to note that even if the prosecution charges a defendant with a misdemeanor offense, a court has the authority under California state law to impose a harsher punishment. In addition, a defendant may also petition to have their penalty reduced.

If an individual has any questions regarding what type of charges they will likely face for corporal injury to a child, they should consult with a local California attorney.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Corporal Injury to a Child in California?

If a defendant is convicted of committing corporal injury on a child in California, they may face several different consequences based on the charges that were brought against them. For example, if a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor offense, they may face:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year;
  • Criminal fines of up to $6,000;
  • Probation; or
  • A combination of these.

If a defendant is convicted of a felony offense, they may face:

  • Imprisonment of four years or more;
  • Criminal fines of up to $6,000;
  • Probation; or
  • A combination of these.

If a defendant is placed on probation, a court will be required to impose minimum conditions on the probation period as prescribed by the law, including:

  • A mandatory minimum probation period of 36 months, or 3 years;
  • At least one year enrolled in a treatment program for child abusers;
  • The court may order that a defendant be subjected to random drug testing if they were impaired at the time of the incident.

In addition, a court may issue a protective order to prevent further harm to the victim. This means that if the defendant is the child’s parent, they will not be permitted to visit or take custody of the child until they complete their punishments and the protection order is lifted.

Is the Punishment Harsher if Someone Has a Prior Child Abuse Conviction?

If a defendant has a prior criminal record, they are known as a repeat offender. Typically, repeat offenders will receive harsher punishments for additional convictions.

This means that if a defendant has a prior child abuse conviction, they will likely receive a harsher punishment if they commit corporal injury to a child. Under the California state statutes, a defendant who is convicted of this offense for a second time will be sentenced to an additional four years in prison in addition to the original prison sentence that the court would issue for a first-time offender.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Case?

If you are facing corporal injury on child charges in California, it is essential to consult with a California criminal lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of the applicable laws, the possible charges you may face, and their accompanying punishments.

Your attorney will also be able to advise you whether there are any defenses available in your case and ensure your rights are protected in court.

If you are a first-time offender or the facts of your case support a request for lesser penalties, your lawyer can petition the court to reduce your sentence. If you are facing felony charges, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction to misdemeanor charges if the facts support a reduction.

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