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Penal Code 13700 PC - Domestic Violence Definition

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jun 20, 2024

California Penal Code 13700 PC is the law that defines "domestic violence" as the abuse of a current or former spouse, cohabitant, intimate partner, dating partner, fiancé, fiancée, or co-parent.

This law also defines the related terms abuse and victim. These legal definitions apply to all domestic abuse offenses and typically determine whether the district attorney will file criminal charges.

California Penal Code 13700 PC - Domestic Violence Definition
PC 13700 defines domestic violence as abuse against a current or former spouse, cohabitant, etc.

A "victim" is a person who was harmed by an act of domestic violence. The term "abuse" is when an alleged abuser intentionally causes or attempts serious bodily injury or places someone or another person in reasonable fear of imminent physical injury.

Notably, accidental injuries are not considered to be abuse because of the lack of intent to harm or engage in risky behavior.

Domestic violence is when an alleged abuser commits abuse against their current or former husband or wife, fiancé or fiancée, current or ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, and person the defendant has a child with.

The main California domestic violence (DV) crime is Penal Code 273.5 PC corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, which is inflicting a visible injury on an intimate partner. This offense can be a misdemeanor or a felony that carries up to four years in jail or prison.

Another common crime is Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery, which is inflicting force or violence on an intimate partner even with no visible injury. This misdemeanor carries up to 1 year in jail and up to $2,000.

What is the Definition of "Domestic Violence" in California?

The entire text of California Penal Code 13700 PC is as follows below.

"As used in this title:

(a) "Abuse" means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself or another.

Definition of Domestic Violence in California

(b) "Domestic violence" means abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.

For purposes of this subdivision, "cohabitant" means two unrelated adult persons living together for a substantial period, resulting in some permanency of the relationship.

Factors that may determine whether persons are cohabiting include but are not limited to (1) sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same living quarters, (2) sharing of income or expenses, (3) joint use or ownership of property, (4) whether the parties hold themselves out as spouses, (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of the relationship.

(c) "Officer" means any officer or employee of a local police department or sheriff's office and any peace officer of the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the University of California Police Department, or the California State University and College Police Departments, as defined in Section 830.2, a peace officer of the Department of General Services of the City of Los Angeles, as described in subdivision (c) of Section 830.31, a housing authority patrol officer, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 830.31, a peace officer as defined in subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 830.32, or a peace officer as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 830.33.

(d) "Victim" means a person who is a victim of domestic violence."

Domestic Violence - Quick Facts

  • The laws of California are strict when it comes to domestic violence.
  • Penal Code 13700 PC defines domestic violence as an act or attempted act to inflict injury on a current or former intimate partner.
  • Domestic violence is abuse often committed against an intimate partner.
  • Somebody commits "abuse" when they intentionally or recklessly use, or threaten to use, physical force against an intimate partner.
  • The DV law also covers direct and indirect threats, which are acts that cause the victim a reasonable fear of imminent harm.
  • The legal definition is essential because crimes of violence against intimate partners are treated differently under the law.

What is Domestic Violence?

The term "domestic violence" is used when abuse occurs in the context of an intimate partner relationship. Under the law, it's considered domestic violence when the victim is in any of the following:

  • A current or former spouse.
  • A current or former fiancé.
  • Girlfriend or boyfriend.
  • Ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend.
  • Someone you dated or are dating.
  • A current or former cohabitant.
  • Someone with whom you have children (co-parent).

These relationships are what differentiates domestic violence from other crimes. It's not just the act of abuse itself but the victim against whom the crime is committed.

A vital element of a domestic violence crime is that it must be committed intentionally or recklessly, meaning accidents resulting from injury are not considered domestic violence, and charges are not filed.

What Is the Definition of "Abuse?"

The term "abuse" refers to intentionally or recklessly committing any of the following acts:

  • Causing a bodily injury to someone.
  • Attempting to cause bodily injury to another person.
  • Causing an alleged victim "reasonable apprehension" of imminent bodily injury to themselves or another person, such as making them feel reasonably threatened.

Notably, under the definition, abuse can be carried out in different ways, such as the following:

  • Physical abuse.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Psychological abuse.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Financial abuse.

The term "reasonable" refers to circumstances or actions that would lead a reasonable person to anticipate immediate danger.

What Are Common Domestic Violence Offenses?

The vast majority of California domestic violence crimes are filed under the following statutes:

  • Domestic battery - Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC. This law means to inflict physical force on an intimate partner willfully, and an injury is not necessary. This law is the default form of domestic violence and is typically a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
  • Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant - Penal Code 273.5 PC. This law means to inflict a traumatic injury on an intimate partner willfully. This is a more serious form of domestic battery and is a wobbler punishable by up to four years in prison.
  • Violating a restraining or protective order - Penal Code 273.6 PC. This law covers the international violation of a court order, including a stay-away order. It's punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Criminal threats - Penal Code 422 PC. This covers making threats of immediate harm or death towards a domestic partner when the threat is specific and unequivocal, causing the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
  • Revenge Porn - Penal Code 647(j)(4). This is a form of "cyber-harassment" that occurs when someone intentionally distributes sexual photos of someone with the intent to cause them emotional distress.
  • False imprisonment - Penal Code 236 PC. This statute involves unlawfully restraining or confining an intimate partner without their consent. It could occur by blocking a door, taking away keys, or preventing them from leaving the house.
  • Elder abuse - Penal Code 368 PC. This law makes it illegal to inflict on a victim who is 65 years or older physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, endangerment, and financial fraud.
  • Child abuse - Penal Code 273d. This law makes inflicting corporal punishment or injury upon a child illegal, but reasonable "spankings" are excluded.
  • Aggravated trespass - Penal Code 601 PC. This statute involves threatening to cause bodily injury to someone and, within 30 days of the threat, entering their residence or workplace with intent to carry out the threat.
  • Stalking - Penal Code 646.9 PC. This law covers stalking a domestic partner and involves repeatedly following or harassing them to cause fear of harm or injury. This law also covers electronic communications, emails, text messages, and social media posts (cyberstalking).
  • Posting harmful information on the Internet - Penal Code 653.2 PC. This law covers posting information about an intimate partner on the Internet to cause them emotional distress or harm. This means posting their address, phone number, photo, or other information without permission.
  • Damaging a phone line - Penal Code 591 PC. This law involves unlawfully and maliciously removing, damaging, or obstructing a telephone, cable line, or equipment. Often, this is done to prevent a domestic violence victim from calling the police.

Contact our Los Angeles domestic violence defense lawyers for more information. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.