domestic violence

United States v. Castleman

  1. Does the criminal statute 18 U.S.C § 922(g), which requires a conviction for a predicate domestic violence crime involving the “use or attempted use of physical force” require violent contact?
  2. Does a state misdemeanor for domestic violence, which requires proof of “bodily injury,” qualify for an 18 U.S.C § 922(g) conviction?

In 1996, Congress passed what is now Section 922(g)(9) of Title 18, which criminalizes the possession of firearms by certain individuals. Section 922(g)(9) makes it a federal crime for a person convicted in state court of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess a firearm if the misdemeanor involved the use or attempted use of physical force. In 2001, James Alvin Castleman was convicted in Tennessee of misdemeanor domestic assault, which requires proof of causing bodily injury to another. Seven years later, Castleman was indicted for possessing a firearm in violation of Section 922(g)(9). The Supreme Court will address whether Castleman’s conviction qualifies as a predicate offense for Section 922(g)(9) and whether the language “physical force” in Section 922(g)(9) requires violent contact. The Court’s ruling will affect the scope of limitations on domestic violence offenders’ possession of firearms, and may serve as precedent for other misdemeanor offenses which contain the language “physical force.”  

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Section 922(g)(9) of Title 18, United States Code, makes it a crime for any person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess a firearm. The phrase “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” is defined to include any federal, state, or tribal misdemeanor offense, committed by a person with a specified domestic relationship to the victim, that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.” 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33)(A). The question presented is:


Whether respondent’s Tennessee conviction for misdemeanor domestic assault by intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to the mother of his child qualifies as a conviction for a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”



In 2001, Respondent James Alvin Castleman pled guilty, in Tennessee state court, to one count of misdemeanor domestic assault in violation of Tennessee Code § 39-13-111(b).

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