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Gun Rights: Voisine v. United States

Voisine v. United States began in 2004 when Stephen Voisine pled guilty in 2004 to assaulting his girlfriend, violating Section 207 of the Maine Criminal Code. That section makes it a misdemeanor to "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause[ ] bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person,"(emphasis added) including a family member or member of the household. Unfortunately for Voisine, he encountered the law again when he killed a bald eagle. Law enforcement officers discovered that Voisine owned a rifle while they were investigating the bald eagle killing, and after finding the violation of Section 207 of the Maine Criminal Code during a background check, they also charged him with violation 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). A similar situation happened to William Armstrong, who was convicted under the same statute and was later found to own a firearm. Both of their lawsuits were combined and decided upon by the Supreme Court in this one case. Because both Armstrong and Voisine could have been "reckless" in their assault, they challenged whether they were barred under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).

The issue in this case, decided on June 27, 2016, is what action qualifies as a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). Congress enacted this statute to extend the federal ban on gun ownership for convicted felons to include people convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Previously, in United States v. Castleman (decided on March 26, 2014), the Supreme Court held that a knowing or intentional assault qualifies as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, but was silent as to whether a reckless assault qualifies as such. This case resolved the silence. Because we are dealing with a federal ban, it is extremely important for you to understand the consequences of your actions which could be potentially hazardous to your Second Amendment right.

The Court held in this case that a reckless assault DOES qualify as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; therefore, the federal ban on gun ownership applies to individuals convicted of these crimes, as well as crimes of intentional and knowing assaults. The idea behind 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) was to close a loophole that allow perpetrators of domestic violence to own guns. Section 922(g)(1) already banned convicted felons from owning guns, however many domestic violence perpetrators were being charged with misdemeanors rather than felonies and could therefore continue to purchase and own guns. This case has cemented the Congressional intent to keep guns out of the hands of domestically violent people. Texans hold their Second Amendment Right is high regard; however, it is important for every Texan to understand that if you are convicted of domestic violence, even a misdemeanor, that right can be revoked.

If you have any questions regarding you Second Amendment Right, or if you are currently facing such charges and are wary of the consequences, please contact our office and (940) 891-4800. 

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