Case Information: U.S. v. Hayes, No. 07-608 (U.S. Supreme Court, submitted June 16, 2008)
At issue: Challenge to law denying firearms permit when applicant has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault. Defendant challenged his conviction for possessing firearms after having been convicted of the predicate offense of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(9), 924(a)(2). Defendant claimed that his predicate offense was not a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A). In United States v. Hayes, 172 L. Ed. 2d 816 (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed whether the definition required that the predicate offense underlying an 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) conviction have as an element a domestic relationship between the offender and the victim. The state offense under which defendant was convicted was simple battery under a statute that had no specified domestic relationship element. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had held that such an element was essential to the existence of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to bar defendant’s gun possession, and reversed the conviction. United States v. Hayes, 482 F.3d 749 (4th Cir. 2007).) On February 24, 2009, the Supreme Court held that federal law prohibiting gun possession by persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence applies regardless of whether the underlying crime requires proof of a domestic relationship. U.S. v. Hayes, 172 L. Ed. 2d 816, 825, 828 (2009). The government may charge and prove that a prior conviction was, in fact, for an offense committed against a spouse or other domestic victim.
Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center joined the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and other major law enforcement organizations in filing this amicus brief in the Supreme Court to have the Fourth Circuit decision overturned. The brief argues that if allowed to stand, the Fourth Circuit’s decision would have allowed thousands of dangerous, convicted domestic violence offenders to lawfully purchase and possess firearms again. The brief further contends that allowing domestic violence abusers to arm themselves will endanger law enforcement.