Worst Roommate Ever: Can Roommate Fights Be Domestic Violence?

June 09, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in California  Criminal Defense  
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Roommate Disputes and Violence

Domestic violence pertains to violence or threats of violence that occur within a household. Spouses, children, partners, siblings, relatives, and roommates are all-encompassed. Roommate conflicts and aggression are classified as domestic violence, which may shock clients and legal professionals.

In California, domestic violence is a matter of great concern to law enforcement. Typically, someone gets taken into custody in situations involving domestic violence.

Roommate violence can result in assault and battery charges, much like family violence. False allegations are as common as accusations of violence within families. Lawyers can reveal the truth.

Legal Penalties

Physical pain caused to a cohabitant, intentional or unintentional, constitutes domestic violence. The level of violence dictates the level of punishment. Arrest and prosecution for domestic violence can result in various outcomes, ranging from probation to imprisonment for life including:

  • Assault crimes categorized as misdemeanors or felonies.
  • Aggravated Harassment as a Misdemeanor.
  • Charges for strangulation and associated crimes of severe and moderate outcomes.
  • Misdemeanor Second Degree Menacing
  • A misdemeanor in the third degree.

An arrest for domestic violence can have a lasting effect, even if the accused is acquitted in court. Charges often linger on one’s criminal record for an extended period. Job and apartment searching difficulties and potential harm to custody rights may arise.

Is breaking a California lease allowed when experiencing domestic violence?

Breaking a lease due to experiencing domestic violence is permitted by law. California law allows lease termination without penalties in domestic violence cases against a current or former spouse, partner, or roommate. It offers protection even in cases of abuse by a partner or parent of your child. Mistreating an elder, child, or dependent adult and human trafficking are reasons to terminate a lease.

What happens to my roommates after I move out?

Simply opting out of your lease due to domestic violence does not imply that others you live with must follow suit. Even if family members are not facing domestic violence, they can still avail of the legal privilege to terminate the lease alongside you. Provided their names are documented in the lease, they must remain in residence and fulfill their financial obligations – encompassing any payments that may have been your responsibility.

Can I force my roommate to move out if they engage in violent or threatening behavior?

In California, you must issue a three-day notice to cure or quit to remove your roommate. Ensure you have the right to remove them and familiarize yourself with eviction laws before taking action. If they disregard you, you must commence an unlawful detainer proceeding.

If your roommate’s behavior is causing you to feel uneasy, it’s essential to notify law enforcement, regardless of whose title is on the lease. Violent or stalking behavior towards another tenant is sufficient reason for eviction under the law, requiring only a three-day notice to the offender. Filing a police report is advisable to have proof of the conduct in case of a court eviction. If you feel unsafe living with your roommate during eviction, consider filing a police report and obtaining a restraining order. Your roommate must move out once the restraining order, which includes a residence exclusion order, is enforced. If you opt for this approach, gather substantial evidence and documentation of the behavior to present in court.

No contact orders

A court order known as a restraining or protective order can provide safety from physical or sexual abuse, threats, stalking, or harassment. The “protected person” is the one who seeks a restraining order, while the “restrained person” is the individual against whom the order is sought. Additional family or household members of the protected person may also be included in the restraining order at times.

Request a civil harassment restraining order if you’re experiencing harassment, stalking, abuse, or threats from an individual not considered close enough to fall under domestic violence laws, such as roommates, neighbors, or distant family members like cousins, aunts/uncles, or nieces/nephews.

If my roommate accuses me of battery in California, what actions should I take?

Battery allegations carry severe consequences, such as imprisonment and costly fees. Consult with a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights in case of an accusation of battery or domestic violence charges.

Proving the absence of an intimate relationship with an accused roommate does not exempt one from the possibility of being charged with assault or battery. If the charges are serious, you could be imprisoned for a maximum of four years if found guilty of either offense.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
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