May 2, 2022 By Paul Wallin

It is Sunday, and for you, that means going to a bar to watch your football team play its weekly game. You invite your roommate to show up, not realizing that the quarterback of the other team is on his fantasy team. Your friend cheers as his QB throws touchdown pass after touchdown pass against your team, and he begins to taunt you. Angry over his behavior and your team’s poor performance, you throw your fist into his face, breaking his nose.

He is your roommate, so have you committed an act of domestic violence?

Defining Domestic Violence

The term “domestic violence” usually conjures up images of violence occurring in a home between spouses or boyfriends and girlfriends. Most people do not realize, however, that the laws that prohibit this kind of violence protect many more people than just those who are involved in a romantic relationship with their attacker.

In California, there is not one specific “domestic violence” law, as many types of actions and degrees of harm can lead to criminal charges that fall under the category of domestic violence. The term “domestic violence” is an all-encompassing term that covers violence based upon the victim’s relationship with the defendant. The classes of protected people include:

  • Spouses
  • Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Past or Present)
  • Person to Whom the Defendant Is or Was Engaged to Be Married
  • Children
  • Family Members
  • Cohabitants or Roommates

So, because you and your roommate live together, California’s domestic violence laws protect him, even if there is no romantic relationship between the two of you.

Are Fights Outside the Home Between Roommates Domestic Violence?

roommates domestic violence
Is a bar fight between roommates domestic violence?

Though “domestic” would lead many people to believe that this type of violence can only happen within a home, the law makes no distinction based on where the act occurs.

If you attack your roommate in a bar, you could be charged with a number of crimes. The most serious of these is a violation of Penal Code section 273.5, which is the infliction of a corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. Under this law, it is a crime to inflict a “corporal injury” resulting in a “traumatic condition” on any of the people in the protected list above, regardless of where the attack took place.

A traumatic condition is defined as “a wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct application of physical force.” This means that any visible injury, be it as minor as swelling and bruising or as serious as broken bones, marks indicating that the victim was choked, or severe cuts. This would include the broken nose your roommate sustained in the above example.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

PC 273.5 is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor, your sentence could be a maximum of 364 days in county jail, a maximum fine of $6,000, and/or probation. If convicted of a felony, the penalties are between two and four years in state prison, a $6,000 fine, and/or probation. The length of these sentences can be increased in many ways, such as if you used a weapon or inflicted bodily injury.

In addition to the penalties described above, if you are convicted the court will also require you to attend anger management classes, which typically extend for a year. Failure to comply with the court-ordered anger management classes is a probation violation. Your conviction can also result in the loss of your right to use, own, or possess a firearm for at least ten years, or, in some cases, permanently.

Contact the Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Right Away

If you are facing charges for a crime of domestic violence, you will need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. At Wallin & Klarich, our team of attorneys has been successfully defending clients against domestic violence charges for over 40 years. We work tirelessly and with a dedication to help our clients obtain the best possible outcome in their cases. We are here to help you, too.

With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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