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District of Columbia v. Wesby

138 S. Ct. 577 (2018)

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District of Columbia v. Wesby

United States Supreme Court

138 S. Ct. 577 (2018)

Facts

Police investigating multiple complaints about a party being held in a vacant house arrived at 1:00 a.m. to find loud music playing in the home, which had no furniture except for a few metal chairs downstairs and a bare mattress in an upstairs bedroom. The home had working electricity and plumbing, food in the refrigerator, and toiletries in the bathroom, but no other personal possessions. There were no clothes in the closet nor were there signs, such as moving boxes, that someone had recently moved in. The living room was being used as a strip club and the upstairs bedroom contained a naked woman on a bare mattress, several men, open condom wrappers, and a used condom. There were 21 people in the home, and when officers entered, several partygoers ran and hid. Police questioned each attendee about the purpose of the party and the identity of the host but received evasive, inconsistent, and implausible answers. Two partygoers identified a woman named Peaches, who was not present at the party, as the host. When police contacted Peaches, she claimed to be the home’s tenant. Police later spoke with the home’s owner who told them that Peaches did not have permission to be in the house or to throw a party there. Officers arrested everyone at the party, including Theodore Wesby (plaintiff) for unlawful entry. Wesby and 15 other partygoers filed a civil suit, alleging false arrest. The district court held that the police lacked probable cause to arrest the partygoers, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)

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