Corporal Injury Laws

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 What Is Spousal Abuse?

Spousal abuse is abusive conduct that occurs between individuals who are considered intimate partners. California is one of the few states that uses the term corporal injury and provides specific penalties for spousal abuse.

Spousal abuse may occur in many forms and may occur in various settings and situations.

What Are the Charges for Corporal Injury?

Infliction of corporal injury, or corporal abuse, is commonly a key factor in many cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, and spousal abuse. The state laws may vary on the definition of these crimes.

However, they will typically define willful corporal injury as the intentional or willful infliction of injury upon an intimate partner or child which results in a traumatic condition in the victim. Numerous corporal injury cases involve cyclical or repeated patterns of abuse.

These repeated instances are common in cases where the traumatic condition is more pronounced. Some cases, however, may only involve a single incident. Corporal injury crimes may be classified under other names, for example, willful infliction of corporal injury upon an intimate partner or other similar titles.

Corporal injury examples that may lead to criminal charges may include:

  • Striking;
  • Punching;
  • Kicking;
  • Grabbing; and
  • Strangling.

What Does Corporal Injury Mean?

Corporal injury, in general, is a physical injury that is willfully or intentionally upon an individual that results in a traumatic condition in the victim. The term traumatic condition, as defined in California law, means any wound or other bodily injury that is caused by the direct application of physical force.

A wound or injury does not have to be serious in order to constitute corporal spousal abuse. Minor wounds or injuries can be enough to justify prosecution. It is important to note that the physical force may be applied using any part of the body, such as hitting or kicking, on the body of another individual and causing injury.

Infliction of corporal injury is a specific category of spousal abuse that is different from other types. Under California laws, other types of spousal abuse that are considered criminal include:

These other categories of abuse do not involve physical contact or the physical infliction of injury as corporal injury does.

What Is the Difference between Corporal Injury and Domestic Violence?

As noted above, corporal injury is a criminal charge for willingly inflicting a personal injury upon a spouse, intimate partner, or child. Domestic violence charges, on the other hand, do not always require a physical injury.

The infliction of corporal injury makes the criminal offense more severe. This means that the penalties upon conviction are also usually more severe and there may be potential sentencing enhancements.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Corporal Injury Violations?

In numerous states, the intentional infliction of corporal injury is classified as a wobbler offense. A wobbler offense is an offense that may be charged either as a misdemeanor or as a felony

Whether to charge an offense as a misdemeanor or as a felony is typically based on factors including:

  • The severity of the offense;
  • The criminal history of the defendant; and
  • The potential impact of the offense both on the victim and on society as a whole.

A misdemeanor charge may result in criminal fines, jail time up to one year, and community service. Felony charges may result in longer sentences of over one year, higher criminal fines, or probation.

In addition, a felony conviction may also result in the individual losing certain privileges, such as the right to own a firearm or child custody rights. The seriousness of the legal consequences a defendant may face will depend upon numerous factors, such as:

  • The degree of injury to the victim, as serious bodily injury may result in harsher penalties;
  • Whether or not there is a pattern of cyclical abuse; and
  • Whether the offender has previous criminal charges.

What Is Corporal Injury on a Child?

Corporal injury on a child is a specific category of child abuse and is considered a criminal offense. In the State of California, for example, corporal injury on a child may be defined as a deliberate or intentional act to inflict serious bodily harm on a child which results in a traumatic condition.

Under this California state, a child is any minor who is under the age of 18. For example, if a parent punishes their child in a manner that is cruel or injures the child by causing a traumatic condition, they may face serious consequences, such as incarceration or losing some or all of their parental rights.

It is important to note that, although a single incident of spanking a child will not likely constitute this offense, repeated hitting of a child or hitting them with a hard object may lead to severe legal penalties.

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

Corporal injury to a child is a specific category of child abuse that may involve conduct such as pushing, choking, shaking, or burning a child. In order to prove a defendant committed this offense, the prosecution will be required to show:

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

Although this offense is often classified as a type of domestic violence crime, they should not be confused with one another. There are different elements for domestic violence cases and corporal injury to a child cases.

In a domestic violence case, the prosecution only has to show that a harmful or offensive touching occurred, or a simple battery incident occurred. In a case of corporal injury to a child, however, the prosecution must show actual physical injury resulted from the defendant’s conduct.

Because of this, a domestic violence charge is typically considered less serious. However, both crimes can lead to felony convictions.

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

If a defendant has a prior criminal record, they may be considered a repeat offender. Generally, repeat offenders receive harsher punishments for additional convictions.

Because of this, a defendant with a prior child abuse conviction will likely receive a harsher punishment if they are convicted of corporal injury on a child.

Are There Any Defenses to Corporal Injury Claims?

Depending on the facts of the case, there may be defenses available in corporal injury cases, such as:

  • Self-defense;
  • Intoxication;
  • The actions did not result in a traumatic condition in the victim; and
  • The conduct was not willful or intentional.

Even if a corporal injury claim is not proven, it may still be possible for other criminal charges to be pursued. For example, a defendant may be charged with assault instead of corporal injury or domestic violence.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Corporal Injury Laws?

If you are facing charges of corporal injury, it is important to consult with a domestic violence attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on the laws in your state as well as what other charges you may possibly face.

Your lawyer will attend any hearings, meetings, negotiations, and trials and provide you with representation during formal sessions in your case. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction in charges or, in some cases, even a dismissal.


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