United States v. Hayes
Petitioner: United States
Respondent: Randy Hayes
Facts of the Case
Under West Virginia law, it is unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess a firearm. In 1994, Randy Hayes pled guilty in West Virginia to a misdemeanor battery offense after striking his wife. Ten years later, in 2004, police responded to a domestic violence call at Hayes’ home. While conducting a search of the premises the police uncovered a Winchester rifle. They arrested Hayes for possessing a firearm after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence based on the 1994 plea. Hayes argued that his prior conviction for misdemeanor battery did not constitute a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of violence under the statute. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia rejected this argument and Hayes entered a conditional guilty plea to reserve his claim for appeal.
Hayes’ strategy was a success, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court. The court held that conviction of a misdemeanor battery does not qualify as a crime of domestic violence, noting that the legislative intent and plain meaning of the statute indicated that the original offense must involve a “domestic” relationship between the victim and offender. Finding this requirement unfulfilled in the case, the Fourth Circuit reversed Hayes’ conviction.
Under West Virginia law, does a conviction for misdemeanor battery constitute a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence when the victim was the offender’s wife but the State did not prove the existence of a “domestic” relationship?