H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Federal Law: Domestic Violence Law Broadened and Extended Prohibiting Gun Ownership

In 1996, a Federal Law was enacted which prohibits those convicted of a domestic violence offense from possessing firearms. in 2009 in the case,of United States v. Hayes, a West Virginia man who had been convicted of a domestic violence offense in 1994, against his then-wife but nowhere in the record was there an indication ro a reference to his plea as an “act of domestic violence.”

Ten years later, in 2004, after the Federal Law in questions had been passed [18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(9)], police responded to a complaint of domestic violence at Hayes’ home. Upon search of the home, police found a rifle amongst Hayes’ possessions. Police were also able to determine that within the ten year time-frame, Hayes had owned at least four other firearms.

Hayes’ 1994 conviction was for misdemeanor battery, rather than a specific offense of domestic violence, even though the victim was undoubtedly his wife at the time.

The appellate record was a ping pong of reversed decisions ultimately ending in a negative result for an individual’s right to bear arms..

Hayes had argued to a United States District Court that the Federal Ban on possession of firearms should not apply to him since the law had not been enacted yet and his plea did not include a reference to the fact that it was an act of domestic violence — the so called “domestic violence finding or “tag.”

The (Lower) District Court rejected Hayes’ argument and Hayes entered a conditional plea of guilt, preserving the case for appeal.

Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed Hayes’ conviction, citing that the Hayes’ conviction for misdemeanor battery was not specific to constitute domestic violence, despite the fact the battery was against his former wife.

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case, and, reinstated the conviction against Hayes.

The Supreme Court found the definition of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, as it applies to the Federal Statute, to include two elements
(1) the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, and
(2) it must be committed by a person with a specified domestic relationship to the victim.

The Court held that the statute does not require the prior conviction to specifically apply to an offense of domestic violence, but rather that the Government can prove such a domestic relationship existed in the previous offense in order to apply the Federal Law in the case at hande,

The Supreme Court held that requiring a prior offense to be charged specifically as a domestic violence offense would “frustrate Congress’ manifest purpose” in preventing the combination of firearms and the tendency of a person to commit domestic violence.

Under present Federal Law, Domestic Violence is defined as any abusive relationship that results in emotional abuse, physical violence, sexual assault, stalking, assault, and/or threatened violence.

State Court convictions can have Federal implications. If you have been charged with an offense of domestic violence, or an offense stemming from a prior conviction, it is important you contact an experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney immediately.

H. Michael’s Take:

Today most Colorado Front Range Counties “Fast Track” Domestic Violence cases to trap the inexperienced targets of what often turn out to be very weak cases of so called domestic violence. The impact of taking a “plea” in these cases – as a result of Federal Laws such as the Federal Gun Laws mentioned in this case report — is extensive and drastic. Information is power — do NOT take a plea bargain until you are fully aware of the full ramifications of the plea bargain are made known to you.

A state court judge has NO obligation under the present law to advise you regarding the loss of your Federal right to bear arms.

For a confidential consultation, contact our offices via phone at 303-627-7777, or email at hmsteinberg@hotmail.com.