- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled Monday police officers had the right to arrest more than a dozen people for partying in a vacant home in Washington, D.C., despite the party guests not knowing the house was unoccupied.

Sixteen party guests said they were invited to the home by a woman named “Peaches,” and said they didn’t have the intent to trespass. They sued the police for wrongful arrest.

But the justices, in a unanimous ruling, said the police who broke up the party and charged the attendees didn’t violate their rights.

“Considering the totality of the circumstances, the officers made an ‘entirely reasonable inference’ that the partygoers were knowingly taking advantage of a vacant house as a venue for their late-night party,” said Justice Clarence Thomas in the opinion for the court.

The Metropolitan Police Department received a noise complaint in March of 2008 from a neighbor of the vacant home, who notified the officers the house had been unoccupied for months. But when the officers arrived, several party guests said they had been invited to the house by “Peaches.”

The home was in disarray, smelling of marijuana, with used contraception and alcohol on the floor, as well as a make-shift strip club set up in one area. According to court documents, one woman was naked upstairs with several men.

Officers said some guests believed they were there for a birthday party while others thought it was a bachelor party, although no one could identify who was being celebrated.

Two guests phoned “Peaches,” who was not at the party. She told the officers she was a tenant and gave the individuals permission to be at her house, but she later changed her story and admitted she did not have permission to be in the home.

The officers tracked down the actual home owner, who said he did not give permission for a party and had been unsuccessful in negotiating a lease agreement with “Peaches.”

The police arrested the party goers, but the charges were later dropped. The guests, though, sued claiming the officers violated their 4th amendment right.

The lower courts agreed, ruling for the party guests, saying they did not have the intent required for “unlawful entry” and the police officers did not have adequate probable cause to arrest them.

But the high court reversed, saying the circumstance suggested criminal activity was taking place.

“The totality of the circumstances gave the officers plenty of reasons to doubt the partygoers’ protestations of innocence,” wrote Justice Thomas.


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