California Penal Code 13700 PC defines domestic violence as causing – or attempting to cause – bodily injury to a past or present romantic partner. This includes current or former spouses, fiances, significant others, live-in partners or co-parents.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
13700 PC. As used in this title:
(a) “Abuse” means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another.
(b) “Domestic violence” means abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship. For purposes of this subdivision, “cohabitant” means two unrelated adult persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of relationship. Factors that may determine whether persons are cohabiting include, but are not limited to, (1) sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same living quarters, (2) sharing of income or expenses, (3) joint use or ownership of property, (4) whether the parties hold themselves out as spouses, (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of the relationship.
(c) “Officer” means any officer or employee of a local police department or sheriff’s office, and any peace officer of the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the University of California Police Department, or the California State University and College Police Departments, as defined in Section 830.2, a peace officer of the Department of General Services of the City of Los Angeles, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 830.31, a housing authority patrol officer, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 830.31, a peace officer as defined in subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 830.32, or a peace officer as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 830.33.
(d) “Victim” means a person who is a victim of domestic violence.
California Penal Code 13700 PC defines the terms domestic violence, abuse, officer, and victim. These legal definitions apply throughout the California Penal Code in domestic abuse situations. And whether a particular situation fits these definitions determines whether criminal charges will be brought.1
Victim and officer are self-explanatory: A victim is the person harmed by an act of domestic violence. And an officer is any law enforcement officer. Meanwhile, the definition of abuse is when the alleged abuser intentionally or recklessly either:
- causes serious bodily injury,
- attempts to cause serious bodily injury, or
- places another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily injury to him/herself or another person.
Therefore, an innocent accident is not abuse because there was no intent to harm or extremely risky behavior.2
Domestic violence is when a person commits abuse against his or her:
- husband or wife,
- former husband or wife,
- fiance or fiancee,
- former fiance or fiancee,
- girlfriend or boyfriend (whether they live together or not),
- ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend (whether they lived together or not),
- person the suspect has a child with3
The two main domestic violence crimes in California are:
- Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5), which is inflicting a visible injury on an intimate partner. This can be a misdemeanor or a felony carrying up to four years behind bars.
- Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1), which is inflicting force or violence on an intimate partner even if there is no visible injury. This is a misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $2,000.
- California Penal Code 13700 PC – Definitions.
- 13700 PC.
- 13700 PC. See also In re Marriage of Brewster & Clevenger (Cal. App. 6th Dist., 2020), 258 Cal. Rptr. 3d 745, 45 Cal. App. 5th 481. People v. Kerley (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2018), 233 Cal. Rptr. 3d 135, 23 Cal. App. 5th 513.