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.


Getting arrested for domestic violence is a serious matter. Depending on whether the prosecutor files felony or misdemeanor domestic violence charges, you could be facing a long time in state prison. When law enforcement responds to a call of domestic violence and there are marks on anyone, someone is going to jail.

If you find yourself involved in a domestic incident and end up behind bars, it does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted of a crime. It is important that you try to remain calm and do not resist arrest. You also should exercise your right to remain silent and contact a criminal defense attorney that is experienced in defending against domestic violence charges. Whatever you say will be used against you, after all, law enforcement is building a case against you not trying to help you out of the situation.

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to your case. It will likely be an attorney from the public defender’s office. It may not be in your best interest to have a public defender representing you. Oftentimes they have a high volume of cases that they are handling and cannot dedicate the time or resources that other criminal defense attorneys can.

If you are arrested in California for domestic violence, the Law Office of Louis J. Goodman may be able to help keep you out of jail and preserve your reputation. Remember that domestic violence charges are serious and carry with them the chance of significant time behind bars. Call us today to see how we can help you through this difficult time.