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Name: U.S. v. Nevils
Case #: 06-50485
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/20/2008
Summary

The evidence was insufficient to show that a sleeping defendant was a knowing possessor of a weapon. Police were chasing a suspect in an apartment complex in a high-crime area when, through an open door, they saw appellant asleep on a couch with a gun leaning against his leg, and another in his lap. Appellant said he had been at a party in a neighboring apartment, and had gotten so drunk he had been put on the couch to sleep it off. The person who put appellant on the couch said there were no guns around appellant when he was placed there. He was tried and convicted of felon in possession of a gun under a federal statute. On appeal, he argued that the evidence was insufficient on the element of knowing possession. The Ninth Circuit reversed, rejecting respondent’s argument that appellant knowingly possessed the guns because he actually had them on his person. Possession, whether it be actual or constructive, requires proof that the defendant had knowledge of the item’s presence and the power and intention to control it. “Knowledge and intent obviously require consciousness at some point.” The fact that the weapons were touching appellant tends to make possession more likely, but is insufficient to show he was conscious of the presence of the weapons.