United States v. Tignor, No. 19-1158 (10th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Defendant Scott Tignor pled guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. At the time he pled guilty, Tenth Circuit case law held a person would incur guilt by knowingly possessing a firearm after obtaining a felony conviction. Under this law, defendants would remain guilty even if they had not known that their prior convictions involved felonies. Soon after the guilty plea, the case law changed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), which held the government needed to prove that the defendant knew his status prohibited possession of a firearm. Given that holding, in this case, the government needed t prove Tignor had known his prior conviction was punishable by more than a year in prison. Invoking Rehaif, Tignor asked the Tenth Circuit to vacate his guilty plea because he wasn’t told about the newly recognized element. For this issue, the parties agreed that the plain-error standard applied. Under this standard, the Tenth Circuit considered whether Tignor showed a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty if he’d known that the government needed to prove knowledge of his prohibited status. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Tignor lacked a plausible defense, and affirmed his conviction.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on December 7, 2020.