United States v. Samora 954 F.3d 1286 (10th Cir. April 8, 2020)

After police discovered a loaded gun in the center console of the car he was driving, the defendant in this case was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. At trial, the district court erroneously omitted a necessary intent element when instructing the jury on constructive possession. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that this misstep constituted plain error and reversed the defendant’s conviction. Although the government presented sufficient evidence to convict the defendant, that evidence was not overwhelming. As a result, the district court’s erroneous instruction on constructive possession likely affected the fundamental fairness of the proceedings, requiring a new trial. Judge Baldock noted that this particular erroneous instruction “appears to be a reoccurring problem in the District of Utah[.]”