Return to CALJIC Part 9-12 – Contents
Child Beating: Definition of “Traumatic Condition”
*Modify ¶ 3 of CJ 9.36 to provide as follows [deleted language is between <<>>]:
A traumatic condition is a condition of the body, such as a wound or external or internal condition, <<whether of a minor or serious nature>>, caused by a physical force. To constitute a traumatic condition the wound or injury must be a serious bodily injury. [Insert definition of serious bodily injury from CJ 9.12.]
Points and Authorities
Without any statutory or judicial authorization CALJIC has concluded that a “minor” injury is sufficient to constitute a traumatic condition for the purposes of convicting the defendant of corporal punishment or injury of a child per PC 273d. However, sound principles of statutory construction require that the injury inflicted be serious and not minor. The statutory language provides as follows: “Any person who wilfully inflicts upon any child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury resulting in traumatic condition is guilty of a felony ….” This language is ambiguous in that it is unclear whether the words “cruel or inhuman” modify “corporal punishment” only or both “corporal punishment” and “injury.” Any ambiguity must be resolved in favor of the defendant. (People v. Belmontes (83) 34 C3d 335, 346 [193 CR 882].) Hence, it should be concluded that the statute cannot be satisfied by “any” injury; rather, it must be cruel and inhuman injury.
Such an interpretation is also consistent with the legislative objective. To permit conviction upon proof of any injury, however minor, would extend the statutory proscription to situations where the child incurs only a slight scratch or abrasion from a reasonable and good faith effort to humanely discipline the child. Obviously, PC 273d was not intended to apply to such a situation. It addresses “the abhorrence which willful infliction of serious injury upon children engenders.” [Emphasis added.] (People v. Brooks (92) 3 CA4th 669, 671-72 [4 CR2d 570].) Accordingly, because the statute must be construed to further the purposes of the legislation (People v. Belleci (79) 24 C3d 879, 884 [157 CR 503], “traumatic condition” should be defined in terms of serious bodily injury.
Failure to adequately instruct the jury upon matters relating to proof of any element of the charge and/or the prosecution’s burden of proof thereon violates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury and due process. [See generally, FORECITE PG VII(C).]