Traditionally, you may think of domestic violence occurring only through physical assault between couples. However, the law provides for a much broader definition of domestic violence.
First, the statutory definition of domestic violence in North Dakota includes: physical harm, bodily injury, sexual activity compelled by physical force, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, sexual activity compelled by physical force, or assault, not committed in self-defense, on the complaining family or household members.
N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1-01(2). The statute includes a broad description of acts that may be domestic violence, including the infliction of fear of harm. Therefore, the law does not require an actual physical altercation to be considered domestic violence. However, the victim must feel the harm is imminent, meaning the threat must be both close in time and place. For example, if your spouse calls you from across the county and threatens to hurt you, it may not meet the standard for domestic violence because that threat is not imminent. If your spouse threatens you from across the room, that threat is likely imminent.
Second, the definition of “family or household member” under the domestic violence law means:
[A] spouse, family member, former spouse, parent, child, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are in a dating relationship, persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time, and, for the purpose of the issuance of a domestic violence protection order, any other person with a sufficient relationship to the abusing person as determined by the court under section 14-07.1-02.
N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1-01(4). The definition of family or household member is also broad, which allows for domestic violence to occur between any relatives, couples, roommates, those who share a child, former spouses, or anyone else who has a sufficient relationship. Although you may traditionally think of domestic violence occurring between husbands and wives, the law provides for almost anyone with a relationship to be charged with domestic violence. Although the laws cited here are in North Dakota, most other states also recognize a wide variety of relationships as domestic, and a wide variety of behavior to be violence. Accordingly, if you have a contentious relationship with anyone in your household it is important to be aware that domestic violence charges are possible if arguments escalate to the level of violence described above.
If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic violence, contact criminal defense attorney Tatum O’Brien for assistance. Contact her at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss in Fargo, North Dakota to discuss your case or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.