California law allows victims the right to sue their perpetrators of domestic violence in civil court, even if the perpetrator is one’s spouse. Enacted in 2002, Civil Code Section 1708.6 states that a person is liable for the tort of domestic violence if she can prove:
- infliction of injury resulting from abuse, and
- that the abuse was committed by the defendant, who is a person having a special relationship with the plaintiff such as boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/cohabitant, even former significant other
Penal Code 13700 is instructive as to the definitions of the terms “abuse” and “domestic violence.”
13700. 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.
(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 of time, resulting in some
permanency of 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 husband and
wife, (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of
(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 defined 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.
We are lucky that in California that there is a civil domestic violence statute because many states still do not have one.
Why did the Legislature in California enact a civil domestic violence statute?
The legislature clearly communicated its’ purpose when enacting this domestic violence statute: “To enhance the civil remedies available to victims of domestic violence in order to underscore society’s condemnation of these acts, to ensure complete recovery to the victims, and to impose significant financial consequences upon perpetrators.”
In addition to California’s domestic violence statute, California also has useful civil rights statutes that are intended to protect domestic violence victims from gender violence.
Learn more about domestic violence and violent crimes.