New York Roommate Violence Laws

Roommates are afforded special protection under New York law. Unlike in many other jurisdictions, roommates are considered household members in New York. This means that any violence committed against them is considered an incident of domestic violence.

The violation of New York roommate violence laws opens the defendant up to increased penalties if convicted, and can trigger orders of protection designed to keep the two parties separated. This can necessitate the defendant to move out of the home and may even affect their job or education.

Qualified roommate violence lawyers could aggressively defend individuals against accusations of roommate violence, and fight to lessen the chances of protection orders adversely affecting their lives.

Why is Roommate Violence a Domestic Violence Charge?

New York’s laws have recently expanded the definition of a household member to include roommates. This is significant since criminal allegations against a defendant are considered domestic violence when they are committed against a family or household member. According to New York Family Court Act §812, a household includes:

  • People related by blood
  • People who are married
  • People formerly married 
  • People with a child in common
  • People who have had an intimate relationship, regardless of whether they have ever lived together

This last criterion is where roommates can become parties to a domestic violence incident. Courts consider the nature of a relationship between two people when deciding if the two people are in an intimate relationship. While the presence of a sexual relationship can be a factor, it is not the only one. People living under the same roof are usually considered to be in an intimate relationship and therefore are mutual household members, and subject to New York roommate violence laws.

How Does the Law View Roommate Violence?

People accused of roommate violence face a difficult path. Not only can they be charged with traditional criminal charges – for example, assault, stalking, or sexual abuse – but these charges are marked as domestic violence. Domestic violence is not a crime in and of itself under New York law, but is rather an aggravating factor to other criminal charges.

For example, a person may be charged with assault against either a roommate or a person they met on the street. Either way, they face assault charges that can result in a Class A misdemeanor conviction. But in the case of a roommate assault, the District Attorney may request a protective order. Such an order would remain in place for the length of the case and forbid contact between the two people. This would require the defendant to move out of the house and may even impact their workplace or school situations.

Of course, these protective orders are official court documents. If a person knowingly violates a protective order they can be charged with an additional crime that is likely more serious than the charge that led to the order being issued in the first place. All people accused of violence against a roommate in New York should understand their rights and the nature of the charge.

How a New York Roommate Violence Lawyer Can Help

Many people are surprised to find that when they are accused of a crime against a roommate, the charge is labeled as domestic violence. New York laws have an expansive definition of a household member that usually includes roommates as potential targets for domestic violence. This makes accusations of crimes much more serious and can permanently affect a defendant’s life.

Knowledgeable roommate violence attorneys in New York can help by defending against the criminal accusations at the root of a case. Important matters are decided during an initial arraignment so time is critical. An experienced lawyer may have the necessary knowledge concerning New York roommate violence laws. Contact a skilled roommate violence lawyer immediately to learn how they can help protect your rights.