We’ve previously discussed how domestic violence doesn’t have to occur between spouses, but can also affect persons who have had a child together or who live together. But can you be charged with committing domestic violence against a roommate? Not usually. Here’s why you should always disclose the full extent of your relationship to your domestic violence defense lawyer if you are accused of assaulting a roommate.
California Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence laws in California are largely defined by penal codes 273.5 and 243(e)(1), both of which only cover physical attacks against specific people, including the defendants’ spouse or former spouse, fiance or former fiance, co-parent of their child, current or past romantic partner, or cohabitant or former cohabitant. Reading the definitions, it seems easy enough to interpret the law as protecting platonic roommates, but courts have consistently held that both domestic violence codes only apply to cohabitants that have had some type of romantic or sexual involvement.
According to the Penal Code, dating relationship means frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectionate or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations. In other words, if you went on one date, or repeatedly were involved with a prostitute, domestic violence charges will not apply if you are accused of physically attacking the other party. If you have been accused of domestic violence by a roommate (or other person) with whom you have never been intimate, it is critical you share this information with your attorney as it could make a huge difference in your case.
Blurry Lines in Cases of Domestic Violence with Roommate Victims
Of course, when it comes to defining intimate relationships, things aren’t always so simple. Some people may think they went on dates together when the other person thinks they just went to dinner as friends or roommates. Similarly, the case can be more difficult if the parties engaged in sexual intercourse once and never did so again. In these cases, small details can be critical in helping your defense lawyer and the courts determine if the nature of your relationship would fall under domestic violence laws or not since domestic violence against a roommate can fall in a legal grey area when sex or dating is involved.
You Can Still be Charged for Assault or Battery Against a Roommate
It’s also worth noting that if you are accused of domestic violence against a roommate and you argue that you were not in a relationship with that person, you could still be charged with battery or assault instead.
If you have been accused of domestic violence against a roommate, remember, there are ways to fight these charges. The most important thing you can do is to contact Peter M. Liss as soon as possible so you can protect your rights and build the strongest possible case. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image via Jason Taellious