Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Court Affirms that Intent to Control Must Be Proven in Constructive Possession Cases Where Area is Jointly Controlled

United States v. Benford, 2017 WL 5346387 (November 14, 2017) (OK) (J. Baldock)(published): A helpful case if you are challenging an unlawful possession of a firearm charge, when the firearm was found in a jointly occupied space. The panel grants Benford a new trial thanks to United States v. Little, 829 F.3d 1177 (10th Cir. 2016). Benford was charged with being a felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm. A pistol was found inside the open pouch of a computer bag in a jointly occupied bedroom. The panel found that after Little, it was plain error not to instruct the jury that the government was obligated to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Benford intended to exercise dominion or control over the pistol. The panel stresses that when an accused jointly occupies the premises on which the firearm is found, the government has to prove a nexus between him and the firearm - specifically that he had knowledge of and access to the firearm and that he intended to exercise dominion or control over it.