District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U.S. ___ , 138 S. Ct. 577 (Jan. 22, 2018)

Ruling in a civil suit against the District of Columbia and five of its police officers brought by individuals arrested for holding a raucous, late-night party in a house they did not have permission to enter, the Court held that the officers had probable cause to arrest the partygoers and were entitled to qualified immunity. As to probable cause, the Court concluded that “[c]onsidering 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.” (quotation omitted). In this respect, the Court noted the condition of the house, including among other things that multiple neighbors told the officers that the house had been vacant for several months and that the house had virtually no furniture and few signs of inhabitance. The Court also noted the partygoers’ conduct, including among other things that the party was still going strong when the officers arrived after 1 am, with music so loud that it could be heard from outside; upon entering, multiple officers smelled marijuana; partygoers left beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor; the living room had been converted into a makeshift strip club; and the officers found upstairs a group of men with a single, naked woman on a bare mattress—the only bed in the house—along with multiple open condom wrappers and a used condom. The Court further noted the partygoers’ reaction to the officers, including scattering and hiding at the sight of the uniformed officers. Finally, the Court noted the partygoers’ vague and implausible answers to the officers’ questions about who had given them permission to be at the house. The Court went on to hold that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.