Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fourth Circuit holds that state offense to qualify as MCDV must have a domestic relationship element

In United States v. Hayes, Hayes appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to dismiss an indictment charging him with three counts of possessing firearms after having been convicted of the predicate offense of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" ("MCDV"). On appeal Hayes argued that his predicate offense was not an MCDV as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A), and that the charges in the indictment thus fail as a matter of law. More specifically, Hayes argued that his 1994 State Offense did not have as an element a domestic relationship, and it was thus not an MCDV insofar as Hayes was convicted of simple battery. The panel agreed with Hayes: to be an MCDV the state offense must have as an element a domestic relationship between the offender and his victim.

Judge Williams dissented. She would have held that the the Government may prove the existence of a domestic relationship through evidence other than the state court’s charging papers and record of the guilty plea. She also noted that nine other circuits that had considered this issue held that the predicate offense need not specifically contain the relationship element.

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