Dating Violence and Firearms: What You Need to Know


Most people do not know that domestic violence laws in California apply to people in dating relationships. But if someone commits or gets accused of battery against a dating partner, prosecutors can choose to charge the case under California’s domestic violence laws. If the alleged assault involved a firearm, prosecutors could file charges for assault with a deadly weapon.

A domestic violence accusation can also provide a basis for a protective order. In California, a protective order can include an order that requires you to give up any firearms you own until the charges get resolved.

Read on to learn more about the intersection of dating violence and firearms.

Dating Violence Under California Law

Domestic violence covers many crimes, including:

  • Battery
  • Assault and threats of battery
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping and false imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Destruction of property
  • Theft

California has special domestic violence laws only for domestic battery and infliction of an injury in a domestic relationship. The other crimes that can take place in a domestic relationship, such as the destruction of property or sexual assault, are prosecuted the same regardless of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim.

Domestic Battery

California laws prohibit battery in a domestic relationship. Domestic relationships include:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A person with whom the defendant is cohabiting
  • A person who is the parent of the defendant’s child
  • A fiancé or fiancée
  • A person with a current or former dating or engagement relationship

The domestic battery law defines a dating relationship as “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.”

This definition excludes non-intimate relationships like working relationships. It also excludes blind dates or other infrequent associations. Finally, the phrase “independent of financial considerations” excludes prostitutes from the definition of a dating relationship.

A conviction for domestic battery can carry a harsher sentence than a battery outside of a domestic relationship. An ordinary battery conviction carries a potential sentence of up to six months in jail. A domestic battery conviction carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail.

Domestic Infliction of an Injury

California laws also prohibit the infliction of a bodily injury in a domestic relationship that results in a traumatic condition. This statute uses the same definition of domestic relationship as the domestic battery statute. Thus, prosecutors can use this law to charge and convict someone of inflicting an injury on a dating partner.

The difference between battery and infliction of an injury stems from the result of the contact between the accused and the alleged victim.

Battery includes any harmful or offensive contact. For example, it could involve slapping the phone out of a date’s hand. Even though the alleged victim suffered no injury, the violent contact would support domestic battery charges.

Infliction of an injury requires that the alleged victim suffered a wound, internal injury, or external injury. Prosecutors might charge someone with domestic infliction of an injury if the accused person allegedly held the alleged victim by the neck while slapping the phone out of their hand.

Domestic battery and domestic infliction of an injury have substantially different sentences. While domestic battery could get you up to one year in jail, a conviction for domestic infliction of an injury could land you in prison for several years. 

Specifically, a judge can pick between one year in jail or two, three, or four years in prison after a conviction for domestic infliction of an injury.

The domestic infliction of an injury statute also includes an enhancement for repeat offenders. If someone convicted of domestic infliction of an injury has a prior conviction for the same offense, the judge can add a year to the prison sentence.

Incidents Involving a Firearm

Suppose the police accuse you of waving a gun around during an argument with a dating partner. Or suppose the police say you used a firearm during a battery, using the gun to hit or even shoot a dating partner.

The introduction of a firearm exposes the accused to many more charges. The chances are much higher that the accused will face charges for domestic infliction of an injury if a gun was used to hit or shoot a dating partner.

Also, prosecutors can file charges of assault with a deadly weapon if the accused threatened a dating partner with a gun or even had a gun while threatening violence against the partner.

Prosecutors could even pursue charges of attempted homicide if the accused used a gun to commit an assault or battery. Whether the evidence would support these charges depends on the facts of the case.

Restraining Orders and Firearms in California

A dating partner can seek a restraining order, also called a protective order, against an accused abuser. The dating partner does not need to prove that the accused committed domestic battery or domestic infliction of an injury. They only need to allege that some form of domestic violence has happened.

For a restraining order, domestic violence includes battery. But domestic violence can also include non-criminal behavior such as:

  • Financial control
  • Emotional abuse
  • Mental abuse

If a court grants the restraining order against a dating partner, the person named in the order can be required to:

  • Surrender all firearms
  • Refrain from buying or receiving firearms
  • Refrain from possessing ammunition

If the subject of the restraining order violates these terms, a judge can hold the person in contempt of court and send them to jail.

Firearms Restrictions Under U.S. and California Laws

Under U.S. law, a conviction for some domestic violence crimes comes with a lifetime firearms ban

But even if the offender escapes the federal ban, a conviction for domestic battery under California law carries a ten-year firearms ban, and a conviction for domestic infliction of an injury carries a lifetime firearms ban. During this time, the offender cannot own, possess, or purchase a firearm.

Dating Violence and Firearms

Unfortunately, dating violence is deeply intertwined with firearms. The laws acknowledge this relationship by punishing people more severely for committing dating violence while using firearms and by depriving them of firearms afterward.

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