California is a diverse state that treats traditional and nontraditional families equally. Because of this, you do not need to be in a married partnership to commit domestic violence. Under California law, domestic violence is not limited to married spouses. It can also occur between two people who are closely related, who have a child in common, or who live together or have lived together. Someone whom you live with but are not related to through blood or marriage would be called a cohabitant. Cohabitant is defined as someone in a relationship with an unrelated adult living together for long enough period for there to be some permanency in the relationship under California Penal Code 13700 (b). This is somewhat akin to an unregistered domestic partner although it does not grant the cohabitants any special rights like a registered domestic partnership does. This definition still leaves some ambiguity as to what kind of relationship you must have to be considered a cohabitant. There is no rigid standard for a cohabitant relationship. It will be determined at the court's discretion. The court will take into consideration whether you and the victim had sexual relations, share your income or expenses, jointly hold any property such as a house or car, and the length and consistency of the relationship on the whole. Simply holding yourself out to be husband and wife is not sufficient to define your relationship as cohabitants, but this will be one of the considering factors the court will weight. Cohabitant is distinguished from a spouse, whom you are related to, a roommate, or someone whom you are in a dating or engaged relationship with that you may not necessarily live with.
You can be charged with a domestic violence offense for directing violence toward a past or present cohabitant. California's domestic violence laws covers not just violence between spouses, but between cohabitants as well. California's two most common domestic violence crimes both include cohabitants as potential victims. You can be charged with corporal injury on an spouse or intimate partner if you willfully inflict injury on a cohabitant and that cohabitant suffers from a traumatic condition; in other words, a definite physical injury. This is a felony charge punishable by jail or prison time and/or a fine of up to $6,000. You could be charged with spousal battery, a slightly less serious offense, if you willfully inflict injury but no traumatic condition results from it. Spousal battery is not limited to just spouses and is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or of a fine of up to $2,000. Domestic violence crimes can sometimes carry with them more severe sentences than crimes against someone whom you are not in a close relationship with, so the definition of domestic violence and whom it can be directed at is very important to be aware of.
It is important to note that a cohabitant of yours can get a domestic violence restraining order against you as well. These too are not limited to violence between spouses. Restraining orders should be taken very seriously even if they do not arise from a criminal charge. Violating a restraining order can result in fines and jail time. If you harm someone who does not fall into the category of cohabitant or any of the other potential victims for a domestic violence crime, you can still be charged with assault or battery. These are still serious crimes, but do not have the same implications domestic violence crimes do.
Domestic violence offenses are serious. They can cause you to lose some of your rights, such as gun ownership, prevent you from holding certain jobs or volunteer positions, and can even cause deportation. Consult with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney right away if you are being charged with a domestic violence offense against a spouse or cohabitant. An attorney can advise you on what penalties you may face and what defense options you have. False domestic violence allegations are not uncommon in California, and you could be falsely charged and convicted without skilled legal representation.
Do you have questions about domestic violence charges? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in domestic violence defense, our Visalia area legal team will work hard to defend your rights and your dignity. With over ten years of exclusive criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights and will not be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.