In U.S. v. Griffith, No. 05-12448 (July 17, 2006), the Court held that a prior conviction for Georgia simple battery qualifies as a predicate offense for violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), which makes it unlawful for a person convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to possess a firearm.
The Georgia statute defines simple battery as "intentionally mak[ing] physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the person of another." The federal statute defines a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as one which has as an element the use of physical force. Under a categorical approach which looked only to the elements of the Georgia statute, the Court found that "physical force" includes "physical contact." "A person cannot make physical contact – particularly of an insulting or provoking nature – with another without exerting some level of physical force." The Court sided with two other circuits to have considered the issue, and rejected the Ninth Circuit contrary interpretation of the statute, and the Seventh Circuit inconsistent resolution of the issue in a different context.
The Court rejected the argument that the domestic nature of the relationship in the predicate offense must be an element of the offense. The Court found that this was a fact in the offense, not an element.