The Ohio Supreme Court has held that a boyfriend can be convicted of domestic violence for an assault on his live-in girlfriend, even where the state did not prove they shared living expenses.
In 2011, the defendant had been living in his girlfriend in her apartment for “about a year.” He slept overnight at her apartment every night and helped her put things up on the wall when he moved into the apartment.
The Defendant’s charges arose after an argument about where he had been earlier in the day. The Defendant pushed his girlfriend and grabbed her by the shirt, detaching a permanent tracheostomy tube which enabled her to breathe. They called 911 and the tube was re-inserted without surgery. The girlfriend told the medical staff that “her boyfriend purposely pulled her trach out.”
The Defendant was found guilty of attempted felonious assault and domestic violence. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
The issue in this case involved whether the state was required to prove that the couple shared any living expenses, such as rent and utilities, which would demonstrate shared familial or financial responsibilities in order for the domestic violence statute to apply.
The domestic violence statute provides, “No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family or household member.” A “family or household member” is defined to include spouses and “person living as a spouse,” which means someone who is cohabiting with a partner.
In a prior decision, the Ohio Supreme Court had explained that the offense of domestic violence “arises out of the relationship of the parties rather than their exact living circumstances,” State v. William. The domestic violence statute applied in this case because the defendant and his girlfriend “were not strangers but rather lived together and were in a relationship from which the domestic violence arose.”
Justice Lanzinger dissented. The Justice warned that “merely living in the same residence will satisfy the element of cohabitation for the domestic-violence statute.” Justice French, joined by Justice O’Neill, also dissented. Justice French suggested that “cohabitation requires proof that the offender and victim shared in either the ‘familial or financial’ responsibilities of the household.”