Can Attacking a Roommate Be Considered Domestic Violence in Riverside County, California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 01, 2016 | 0 Comments

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When we think of “domestic violence” in Riverside County, California, we usually think of threats or acts of violence committed by a spouse or intimate partner. But does the word “domestic” in “domestic violence” mean that charges for such crimes can be brought against someone for attacking someone they simply live with, such as a roommate?

The answer is that while California's laws about domestic violence apply to “cohabitants” as well as spouses and romantic partners, that term does not extend to individuals living together in a platonic relationship.

California Penal Code 273.5 Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant -- Penal Code 273.5 makes it illegal to inflict a "corporal injury" resulting in a "traumatic condition" to certain specified persons. Those persons include:

  • The offender's spouse or former spouse.
  • The offender's cohabitant or former cohabitant.
  • The offender's fiancé or fiancée, or someone with whom the offender has, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship.
  • The mother or father of the offender's child.

Similarly, the crime of domestic battery as set forth in California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1) applies to any battery committed against a spouse, a person who is the parent of the defendant's child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship as well as “a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting.”

Neither section of the Penal Code defines the term “cohabitant, but California courts which have considered the issue have all found that there must be some form of intimate, sexual, or romantic relationship between the alleged assailant and victim in order for a crime to be charged under California's domestic violence laws.

As one California appellate court put it:

The term cohabitant “requires something more than a platonic, rooming-house arrangement.” It “has been interpreted ‘broadly' to refer to those ‘ “living together in a substantial relationship -- one manifested, minimally, by permanence and sexual or amorous intimacy.” '

            People v. Holifield, 205 Cal.App.3d 993 (1998)

As such, in the absence of a sexual or romantic relationship of some form between people who live together in Riverside County, domestic battery or domestic violence charges will not apply, though any acts of violence or threats of violence can be charged under California's generally applicable assault and battery laws.

If you have been charged with domestic violence or any other crime in Riverside County, California, you need to retain a criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure that your rights and your future are protected. Please call one of our experienced Riverside County criminal defense lawyers today to discuss your situation.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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