Black Robes Speak!: February 2009
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

U. S. Supreme Court Rules Persons "Convicted Of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence" May Properly Be Prohibited From Possessing Firearms.

The case is UNITED STATES v. HAYES, No. 07–608 (2009), which involved the constitutional propriety of Congress extending in 1996 the federal Gun Control Act of 1968’s prohibition on possession of a firearm by convicted felons to include per-sons convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9).

In the case, appellant Hayes, who was convicted in state court for domestic violence argued that the crime mas not predicated upon a domestic relationship with his then wife.

The court reversed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and held instead:

that a "domestic relationship, although it must be established beyond a reasonable doubt in a §922(g)(9) firearms possession prosecution, need not be a defining element of the predicate offense; but that the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” contained in §921(a)(33)(A), imposes two requirements[:] First, the crime must have, “as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.” §921(a)(33)(A)(ii); and,

Second, it must be "committed by a person who has a specified domestic relationship with the victim. Ibid. The definition does not, however, require the predicate-offense statute to include, as an element, the existence of that domestic relationship. Instead, it suffices for the Government to charge and prove a prior conviction that was, in fact, for “an offense . . . committed by” the defendant against a spouse or other domestic victim. Pp. 4–9."

So what does it all mean for the lay person?

It means that under federal law, a person who has been convicted of a domestic violence offense against a domestic partner (whether or not a spouse), whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor, is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

I suspect other states will follow this lead and pass their own similar, if they don't have them already.

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