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Name: James v. State of California et al.
Case #: F065003
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/24/2013
Subsequent History: Review granted 1/15/2014: S214385 (briefing deferred)

A defendant convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 242 (misdemeanor battery) based on a domestic violence incident is prohibited from possessing a firearm under the federal Gun Control Act. In 1996, James was arrested for corporal injury on his wife and pled no contest to misdemeanor battery under section 242. In 2008, when he applied to be a reserve deputy sheriff, he learned that California considered his conviction to be a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) under the federal Gun Control Act, prohibiting him from the possession of a firearm. In 2011, when he attempted to purchase a firearm, his application was denied on the same ground. He filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the superior court challenging the classification of his prior conviction as an MCDV. The trial court determined that section 242 was not a valid categorical predicate offense for an MCDV and issued a writ of mandate and prohibition. Reversed. An offense that “has, as an element, the use . . . of physical force . . .” qualifies as an MCDV under the federal Gun Control Act. Any harmful or offensive touching, including the least touching, constitutes an element of battery under section 242. The Court of Appeal concluded that such touching is sufficient to constitute the “use of physical force” so as to render a section 242 conviction an MCDV. Looking at Congress’ intent in enacting the provisions of the federal Gun Control Act at issue, i.e. keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, the appellate court found nothing to suggest that only those abusers who applied a specific quantum of force against their victims were prohibited from possessing firearms. [Editor’s Note: Justice Gomes dissented and there is a split in federal authority on this issue. Cases that supported James’ position included a Second Appellate District Court decision and a Ninth Circuit decision. (See Shirey v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Com. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 1; U.S. v. Belless (9th Cir. 2003) 338 F.3d 1063.)]