On October 30, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari (Voisine, et al., v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-10154 )to two petitioners who have been convicted in the State of Maine for charges of misdemeanor domestic violence. More plainly stated this means that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review the cases of two men from Maine whose appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit were denied. See United States v. Voisine, et al., 778 F.3d 176 (1st Cir. 2015). Historically the U.S. Supreme Court grants this type of review to only a small number of cases.
William Armstrong, III and Stephen Voisine were each convicted separately of illegally possessing a firearm after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in Maine. Under Maine law a person can be convicted of domestic violence for intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person who is a family or household member. The “intentional, knowing, or reckless” elements of the crime describe the defendant’s mens rea, or state of mind, at the time of the incident. This means that in Maine, a person can be convicted of domestic violence for purposefully causing bodily injury to a family or household member or for causing injury or offensive contact as a result of reckless behavior. Currently people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence in Maine are prohibited from carrying a firearm and can be charged with a Federal crime for doing so.
The issue in this case revolves around the state of mind of the perpetrator. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether “recklessly” causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact falls within the Federal definition of “misdemeanor of domestic violence” which involves “the use or attempted use of physical force.” For example, if a person is convicted in Maine of recklessly causing bodily injury to a family or household member for throwing something during an argument and unintentionally striking a victim, is that the same as “using physical force” under Federal law? Is recklessly injuring or causing offensive physical contact to a family member the same as using physical force against them? If not, a person convicted of recklessly causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact to a family or household member in Maine arguably may not be prohibited from carrying a firearm.
It has not yet been determined when the Supreme Court will hear or act in these matters.
The criminal defense attorneys at Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion, LLC have decades of experience in a wide variety of criminal law matters. We understand that any criminal charge is serious and can have a significant effect on your future. We have the knowledge and experience to advise you and guide you through the process, and we will fight aggressively to defend you.