Corporal Injury to Spouse California

Penal Code section 273.5 was enacted in 1977. at that time Penal Code section 273d declared it to be a felony for a husband to "inflict" corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition on his wife. Section 273.5 broadened this prohibition by (1) providing that both men and women could be violators and victims; and (2) expanding the kinds of relationships in which the crime could occur. (See Review of Selected 1977 California Legislation (1978) 9 Pacific L. J. 281, 429-430.) Case law interpreting section 273d had held that battery was a lesser included misdemeanor offense within the charge of corporal punishment. (People v. Atkins (1975) 53 Cal. App. 3d 348, 352 125 Cal. Rptr. 855; People v. Stewart, supra, 188 Cal. App. 2d 88, 90.) The Legislature is presumed to have been aware of this judicial interpretation of the language it chose to employ in both statutes. ( People v. Cruz (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 764, 774 55 Cal. Rptr. 2d 117, 919 P.2d 731.) It therefore appears that the Legislature intended, in section 273.5, to define as a felony a very particularized battery, i.e., one in which corporal injury is inflicted. A battery, of course, "cannot be accomplished without a touching of the victim." (People v. Marshall (1997) 15 Cal. 4th 1, 38-39 61 Cal. Rptr. 2d 84, 931 P.2d 262.) The history of section 273.5 supports the inference that the Legislature intended to define a crime in which the corporal injury results from a direct application of force by the defendant upon the victim. Former section 273d provided: "Any husband who willfully inflicts upon his wife corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, and any person who willfully inflicts upon any child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony." (See People v. Stewart (1961) 188 Cal. App. 2d 88, 90 10 Cal. Rptr. 217.) This construction is inconsistent with the view that an infliction is shown so long as the injury was caused by defendant's act. But it is beyond question that the Legislature may, and has, defined crimes and punishments in which causation analysis plays no practical part. For example, if a defendant has possessed contraband, burglarized a premises or battered another, criminal punishment is imposed to deter socially intolerable conduct regardless of any injury which may have been caused by the act. (See People v. Roberts (1992) 2 Cal. 4th 271, 316 6 Cal. Rptr. 2d 276, 826 P.2d 274.) Causation most commonly becomes an issue where the crime is defined in terms of its result, as in the crime of homicide. In such cases, "moral culpability is found . . . when, despite the lack of any intent to kill, the consequences of the evil act are so natural or probable that liability is established as a matter of policy. Thus, for example, the Legislature has chosen to designate certain felonies as so inherently dangerous that death in the course of their commission or completion constitutes first degree murder. ( 189.)" ( Id. at pp. 316-317) In contrast, the Legislature also has enacted statutes under which the direct-natural-and-probable-consequence test is not employed to determine criminal liability and punishment. For example, a defendant who directs another to attack a victim and blocks the victim's escape, but does not strike the victim, is not subject to an enhancement for infliction of great bodily injury pursuant to Penal Code section 12022.7, even though the injury was the direct result of his or her direction and assistance. ( People v. Cole (1982) 31 Cal. 3d 568, 579 183 Cal. Rptr. 350, 645 P.2d 1182.) The reason is that the Legislature specifically limited the additional punishment to "any person who, with the intent to inflict such injury personally inflicts great bodily injury. . . ." (Pen. Code, former 12022.7, italics added.) Courts have construed statutory language to require the same result even where the Legislature was not so specific. For example, the California Supreme Court held that an aider and abettor in the commission of a murder was not subject to the increased penalty for use of a firearm pursuant to Penal Code section 12022.5, even though the statute, as worded at that time ("any person who uses a firearm . . .") did not specify that the use must be personal. (People v. Walker (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 232, 235-236 133 Cal. Rptr. 520, 555 P.2d 306.) The court reasoned that the statute, which imposed derivative liability for an accomplice's conduct, did not also impose derivative enhancements for the accomplice's personal conduct. (Id. at p. 242.)