Federal Gun Control Act And A Misdemeanor Crime Of Domestic Violence: United States Supreme Court Defines Physical Force Under 18 U.S.C. § 921

Just a few short days ago, I wrote a beautiful blog article entitled Federal Gun Control Act And A Misdemeanor Crime Of Domestic Violence: How A Plea Bargain From A Domestic Violence Charge to A Non-Domestic Charge Still Carries A Federal Weapons Ban.  And let me tell you something about writing blog articles…I went to UCLA and UD Law School.  I’m very highly educated.  I know words, I have the best words!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist a good Donald Drumpf jab.  What an ass.  That is right Donald!  I called you an ass!  And now, I will wait patiently for his lawsuit against me.

Alright, back to the mission at hand.  In the above mentioned blog article, I discussed the definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(33)(A) and how it relates to a lifetime gun ban for domestic violence charges and plea bargains.  As a quick refresher, the Court in U.S. v. Hayes, 555 U.S. 415, found:

IF

1)  The misdemeanor offense has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly gun;

AND

2)  Is committed by a person who has a specified domestic relationship with the victim

THEN

The misdemeanor offense has the element of domestic violence.

To sum it up, a misdemeanor offense has the element of domestic violence that will lead to a lifetime gun ban under the Federal Gun Control Act.

After this decision came down, defense attorneys scrambled to find ways to avoid having their clients fit the definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence.”  One argument, out of Tennessee, stated that the crime in question must have an element of “use of physical force.” Loving a good gun rights battle, the United States Supreme Court took on another case dealing with the Federal Gun Control Act and “misdemeanor crimes of violence.”  In U.S. v. Castleman, 572 U.S. ____ (2014), the U.S. Supremes were tasked with defining “use of physical force.”

In 2001, a Tennessee man, by the name of James A. Castleman, was charged and convicted of having “intentionally or knowingly caused bodily injury to” the mother of his child.  Seven years later, the fuzz learned that Castleman was selling firearms on the black market.  I imagine the black market in Tennessee is asking your neighbor if you can by a gun.  In any event, Castleman was indicted on two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), Federal Gun Control Act.

Thinking this Drumpfed up charge was complete horse shit, Castleman moved to have the indictment dismissed because his conviction from 2001 did not have the element of “the use of physical force.”  Agreeing with Castleman, the District Court found that the use of physical force must entail violent contact with the victim.  The court further held that Castleman’s conviction cannot qualify as a “misdemeanor crime of violence” because one can cause bodily injury without violent contact.  The court tossed out the idea of “deceiving a victim into drinking a poisoned beverage.”  That would cause bodily injury without physical contact.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit got ahold of this case and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.  Applying Johnson v. U.S., 559 U.S. 133, (holding 18 U.S.C. § 924 requires violent force), the court held that Castleman’s conviction did not qualify as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” because Castleman could have been convicted for causing a slight, non-serious physical injury with conduct that cannot be described as violent.

Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, opened up with “well ladi-frickin-da Sixth Circuit!”  Justice Sotomayor followed that up with “it is a settled principle of interpretation that, absent other indication, Congress intends to incorporate the well settled meaning of the common-law terms it uses.” Sekhar v. U.S., 570 U.S., ____ (2013).  And that tidbit was followed up with, “seeing no other indication here, we hold that Congress incorporated the common-law meaning of ‘force’ – namely, offensive touching – in § 921(a)(33)(A)’s definition of a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.’”  OUCH!  NOT GOOD!

After dissecting Johnson v. U.S., and looking at the words “violent” and “violence,” the Court states that domestic violence is not merely a type of violence; it is a term of art encompassing acts that one might not characterize as violent in nondomestic contexts.  The Court also looked to the Office on Violence Against Women’s domestic violence definition, which defined physical forms of domestic violence as hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, and hair pulling.  The Court went on to state that “if a seemingly minor act(s) like this draws the attention of authorities and leads to a successful prosecution for a misdemeanor offense, it does not offend common sense or the English language to characterize the resulting conviction as a ‘misdemeanor crime of violence.’”

With all of that said, the U.S. Supremes held that “the requirement of ‘physical force’ is satisfied, for purposes of § 922(g)(9), by the degree of force that supports a common-law battery conviction.”

Listen, the feds are very serious about stripping gun rights away from people who are convicted of misdemeanor crimes of violence.  As I stated in my last blog article, you can avoid a lifetime ban by not hitting your loved one!  And according to Castleman, hit (physical force) means offensive touching!

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