How does California law define domestic violence?

When a person has been charged with the crime of domestic violence, or when someone needs protection from physical abuse, the law can be difficult to figure out. California defines domestic violence in different ways, and different parts of the law may apply to a situation of ongoing, imminent or alleged domestic abuse.

First, domestic violence doesn't occur against just anyone - per California law it is directed at people who are part of the offender's family or an intimate partner. This can be a husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, former spouse or previous partner. Domestic violence can also occur between cohabitants in the same household and between parents who are not together but who have a child in common. Domestic violence can also occur between those in same-sex relationships.

Different parts of the California Penal Code may apply to a domestic violence situation. The prosecutor who brings charges will likely decide which portions to apply based on the incident's severity and the resulting harm to the victim. One area that comes up frequently is Section 242 of the Penal Code, which defines battery.

According to Section 242 battery is the use of violence or force against someone; such force or violence is both willful and against the law. Section 243(e)(1) further defines battery within the context of intimate or family relationships. Section 243(d) can also apply in domestic violence complaints, particularly if the bodily harm is severe. Section 273.5 also applies to domestic violence and involves injury resulting in a trauma-inducing condition.

These are not the only sections of the Penal Code that may apply in a domestic violence case. Likewise, many other circumstances can affect how a case will ultimately turn out for the family members or individuals involved. A skilled California family lawyer can assess a person's legal situation and explain options for resolution, defense or protection.