Voisine v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2016
  • Case #: 14–10154
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, and ALITO, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to Parts I and II.
  • Full Text Opinion

A person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of reckless domestic violence is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9).

The two Petitioners pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assaulting their significant others and were subsequently convicted of violating 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9), which prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm or ammunition. On appeal to the First Circuit, Petitioners asserted that Maine’s assault statute included the mens rea of recklessness and under the common law definition of recklessness their convictions did not qualify as “use . . . of physical force,” pursuant to §921(a)(33)(A). The First Circuit affirmed the convictions, and reaffirmed on remand from the Supreme Court in consideration of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Castleman (2014), which upheld §922(g)(9) as-applied to knowing or intentional misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, leaving a circuit split concerning recklessness. The Supreme Court upheld the First Circuit’s review of the cases under Castleman and expanded §922(g)(9)’s firearms ban to any person convicted of a misdemeanor use of reckless physical force against a domestic partner. The Court determined that recklessness was sufficient to establish criminal liability under §922(g)(9), because Congress was presumably aware of the abandonment of the common law approach to mens rea prior to its enactment of §922(g)(9) and did not distinguish recklessness from a knowing or intentional state of mind. The Court noted that recklessness is a conscious disregard of a substantial risk, not accidental conduct, and thus satisfied the definition of “use” for the “use . . . of force” requirement. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search