Domestic Violence

When one thinks of domestic violence, commonly, that violence occurs between either spouses, significant others or family members. But when an assault or battery occurs between two roommates, does this count as domestic violence?

The short answer – no, not typically. And here’s why.

Domestic Violence Laws in California

California’s domestic violence statutes are defined most by penal codes 273.5 and 243(e)(1), which only cover physical attacks against certain people, including:

  • Spouses, whether current or former
  • Fiancés or former fiancés
  • Co-parents of children
  • Current or past romantic partners
  • Cohabitants or former cohabitants

It may seem like roommates are covered under this law – roommates are cohabitants, after all. However, courts have consistently held that the California domestic violence codes only apply to cohabitants that have been involved in some type of romantic or sexual relationship.

To quote one California appellate court:

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)

So, if you are accused of battery by a roommate, then you should make it clear to your attorney that you were never involved in any intimate relationship with your roommate. This won’t protect you from battery claims, but it can eliminate any doubt as to whether domestic violence has occurred.

What Do I Do If I Have Been Accused of Battery by a Roommate in California?

Battery accusations can lead to serious penalties, including jail time and expensive fines. You need to speak to a criminal defense attorney to preserve your rights if you have been accused of battery, whether domestic or otherwise. Call us for a free consultation at (510) 582-9090.