U.S. Supreme Court: United States v. Hayes (No. 07-608)

From the ABA Criminal Justice Section: http://www.abanet.org/crimjust

United States v. Hayes (No. 07-608)

“The court released an opinion regarding the prohibition on possession of a firearm by convicted felons to include persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Police officers discovered a rifle in respondent Hayes’s home. Hayes was charged with possessing firearms after having been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. He was previously convicted for battery in 1994 against his then-wife. Hayes moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that his past conviction did not qualify as a predicate offense because West Virginia’s generic battery law did not designate a domestic relationship between aggressor and victim as an element of the offense. When the District Court denied the motion, Hayes entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed. The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that a §922(g)(9) predicate offense must have as an element a domestic relationship between offender and victim.”

“By extending the federal firearm prohibition to persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, §922(g)(9)’s proponents sought to close a loophole: Existing felon-in-possession laws often failed to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, for such offenders generally were not charged with, or convicted of, felonies. Hayes argues that the measure that became §§922(g)(9) and 921(a)(33)(A), though it initially may have had a broadly remedial purpose, was revised and narrowed during the legislative process, but his argument is not corroborated by the revisions he identifies.”

“Congress defined “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include an offense “committed by” a person who had a specified domestic relationship with the victim, whether or not the misdemeanor statute itself designates the domestic relationship as an element of the crime.”

“Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court. Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion in which only Justice Scalia joined.”

The full opinion can be accessed at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-608.ZS.html.

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