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‘Living as if a spouse’ permits woman’s domestic battery conviction

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A married woman convicted of domestic battery against a man with whom she was involved in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship couldn’t persuade an appeals court that it was a stretch to apply the criminal statute in her situation.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the Class D felony conviction handed down by a Whitley Superior jury and noted the domestic battery statute providing harsher penalties than non-domestic battery clearly applies to someone who “is or was living as if a spouse.” The case is Shayla Bowling v. State of Indiana, 92A03-1212-CR-553.

“Bowling claims that as a matter of law she could not be living as if a spouse with (the victim), within the meaning of the domestic battery statute, when she was married to another man. … She then asserts that ‘to permit the Domestic Battery statute to include sexual partners or extramarital affair participants would arguably, broaden the scope of the Domestic Battery statute’,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote for the court. “We are unpersuaded by Bowling’s slender analysis.”

The panel that included judges John Baker and Nancy Vaidik also rejected Bowling’s claim that she could not be “living as if a spouse” with another man without committing bigamy.

“Anti-bigamy laws have no relevance to the issue at hand. Further, even a cursory review of I.C. § 35-42-2-1.3(a) reveals that an individual may be subject to domestic battery charges against more than one individual at any given time. For example, an individual might have a child in common with person A (subsection (a)(3)), be a former spouse of person B (subsection (a)(1)), and be living as if a spouse with person C (subsection (a)(3)). Battering any one of these people would subject the individual to a charge of domestic battery,” Friedlander wrote.

“The fact that the defendant is legally married does not shield the defendant from the domestic battery statute if he or she batters another person with whom he or she has shared a domestic relationship. The focus must be on the defendant’s past or present relationship with the victim and whether said relationship was domestic as defined by the statute. Contrary to Bowling’s suggestion, the nature of this relationship is not defined as a matter of law by the defendant’s relationship with another individual,” the court concluded.

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