Weekly Case Summaries: March 28, 2014

United States Supreme Court

U.S. v. Castleman

No. 12-1371                            3/26/14

Issue:

When a defendant is convicted under a state’s misdemeanor assault law of “intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury” to anyone in a class of people outlined in 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9), does the assault constitute a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under that federal statute and prohibit the defendant from carrying a firearm?

Holding:

Yes. The requirement of “physical force” in the federal definition of domestic violence is satisfied by the degree of force that satisfies a common-law battery conviction, which requires only “offensive touching.” Read the opinion.

Concurrence (Scalia, J.):

This is a straightforward statutory-interpretation case that the parties and the Court have needlessly complicated. Precedent, text, and common sense all dictate that the term “physical force,” when used to define a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” requires force capable of causing physical pain or bodily injury.

Concurruence (Alito, J.):

The meaning of the contested statutory language is the same now as it was four years ago in Johnson.

Commentary:

Does this mean we will be trying more assault cases? While the offense at issue is equivalent to a Texas Class A assault against a family or household member, the opinion indicates that even a Class C assault against a family or household member might later be a basis for a federal firearms prosecution.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Ellison v. State

No. 14-12-00920-CR              3/25/14

No. 14-12-00922-CR

Issue:

Did the State violate the defendant’s double-jeopardy rights when it convicted him twice on two separate counts of family violence that both relied on a common violent act?

Holding:

Yes. The overlap of two of the same underlying instances of bodily-injury assault against the same victim during the same time period was not constitutionally permissible. Read the opinion.

Comment:

A very interesting case. Defendant receives deferred for continuous family violence by committing assaults A and B within a 12-month period. A few days after that, he commits assault C against the same victim. The State tried him for a new offense of committing assaults A, B, and C within a different 12-month period. The court finds a double jeopardy violation based mainly on the statutory language that only one count may be charged under that offense against the same victim. But is this really the situation the Legislature envisioned when it added that bar to multiple prosecutions? Certainly, we cannot take several offenses already committed and shop them as multiple counts of continuous family violence just by dividing up our timeline. But this guy committed an offense, was prosecuted, committed a new offense, and was prosecuted again. Each indictment contained only one count.

McCann v. State

No. 01-13-00325-CR              3/25/14

Issue:

Was the corpus delicti rule satisfied in a DWI case where the intoxicated defendant confessed to crashing his car after he was found wandering within 400 yards of the wreck in a remote area, with no one else around, displaying injuries consistent with the still-warm wrecked vehicle?

Holding:

Yes. The above evidence was sufficient to corroborate the defendant’s extrajudicial confession. Read the opinion.

Commentary:

Nothing like a little bit of Latin on a Friday during Lent. The Court does a good job of explaining the concept of corpus delecti—that the State must prove a crime happened—and distinguishing some older DWI cases where the State failed to do so.

 

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