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Who Is a “Household Member” for Domestic Violence Laws?






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Oct 20, 2016

Who Is a “Household Member” for Domestic Violence Laws?

Crimes of domestic violence in the state of Maine can be confusing. This is because crimes of domestic violence are really just other crimes, like assault or battery, when those crimes are committed against certain people. It can be helpful to think of the laws that prohibit domestic violence as providing an extra layer of legal protection for a certain group of people, rather than to everyone. This extra layer of protection often results in harsher penalties, if it is broken.

Who Is Covered by Domestic Violence Laws in Maine?

In the state of Maine, our domestic violence laws only apply when an eligible crime is committed against someone who is a “household member” of the person who committed the crime. Unfortunately, what makes someone a “household member” of someone else can be fraught with complexities, once you delve into some of its practical problems.

In Theory, It’s Simple

Just reading the domestic violence statutes in Maine, you’ll find that the laws provide a listing of relationships that make someone a “household member”:

  • Spouses or domestic partners, both current and former;
  • Individuals who are currently, or were formerly, living together as spouses;
  • Individuals who are currently, or were formerly, living together;
  • Individuals who are currently, or were formerly, sexual partners;
  • Parents of the same child;
  • Adults who are related to each other by blood or affinity; or
  • Minor children of an adult who is otherwise a household member.

While these categories cover most of the possibilities, there are numerous complexities and nuances that crop up when these definitions are applied in individual cases.

In Practice, Domestic Violence Laws Are Problematic

Just one of the most common examples of how Maine’s domestic violence laws are tricky is how they handle significant others. If a crime eligible for domestic violence is committed by someone against his or her boyfriend or girlfriend, whether it will be considered domestic violence – and, therefore, whether it will carry harsher penalties – depends on whether the two were sexual partners or not.

As one crucial case in Maine has shown, this requires the prosecutor to prove that the two were actually sexually intimate with each other. If they were, then their relationship makes them “household members” with each other, allowing domestic violence charges to be made. If they were not sexually intimate with each other, though, then their status as a boyfriend or a girlfriend does not satisfy the statutory requirement.

Proving, in a courtroom, that two people were sexually intimate with each other can be a tricky and incredibly uncomfortable proposition. It often ends with a “he said, she said” scenario that leaves the jury with little to do but guess.

Maine Domestic Violence Defense Attorney William T. Bly

This is just one of the problems with Maine’s domestic violence laws. While they make sense, in theory, how they are applied in practice can lead to some uncomfortable situations, and some bothersome outcomes.

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in the state of Maine, you need an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to make sure you don’t face an especially harsh conviction. Contact the law office of William T. Bly online or at (207) 571-8146.



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