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Recent Appellate Court Decisions Shape California’s Criminal Spousal/Cohabitant Abuse Provision  

Author:  Staff Editors.

Source: Volume 01, Number 05, June/July 1996 , pp.6-7(2)

Domestic Violence Report

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California Penal Code § 273.5 provides that any person who “willfully inflicts upon his or her spouse, or any person ... with whom he or she is cohabitating, or ... who is the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony....” This section has been in effect for many years, but continues to be defined by the courts. In People v. Vega, 39 Cal. Rptr. 2d 479 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995), the California Court of Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court, upheld a conviction under § 273.5 on the basis of the victim’s testimony that the defendant was the father of her children. The defendant had appealed his Superior Court conviction, arguing that proof of his parentage was not established by the Family Code statutory presumptions, which require evidence that the child’s conception or birth happened during marriage, the father consented to be named on the child’s birth certificate, the father was obligated to pay child support by court order, or the father holds the child out as his own or otherwise acknowledges paternity. None of these factors applied to the defendant, nor were he and the children’s mother living together at the time he assaulted her. However, the court of appeals held that the domestic violence deterrent found in § 273.5 does not require that these factors come into play. The victim’s uncontradicted testimony that the defendant was the father of her children constituted sufficient evidence that their relationship came within the meaning of the criminal statute. This article also discusses People v. Blunt, 43 Cal. Rptr. 2d 484 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995); People v. Kinsey, 47 Cal. Rptr. 2d 769 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995); People v. Vessell, 42 Cal. Rptr. 2d 241 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995); People v. Casillas, 47 Cal. Rptr. 2d 734 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995); and People v. Hernandez, 41 Cal. Rptr. 2d 89 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995).

Keywords: California’s new “Three Strikes” law on spousal abuse convictions

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