Police officers who broke up a wild bachelor party almost a decade ago had every right to arrest the partygoers, the Supreme Court ruled this week.
In 2008, police officers were called to investigate a noise complaint at a supposedly vacant house in Washington, D.C.
But the house was anything but empty, and when officers arrived at around midnight, they discovered a wild bachelor party raging. The partygoers claimed they had been given permission to hold the party at the house by a woman named “Peaches,” but after contacting her, police determined the attendees were trespassing.
Later, police discovered that the house’s owner had been negotiating a lease with Peaches, but never reached a final deal.
In total, 21 partygoers were arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct, though they later sued police for false arrest under the Fourth Amendment, according to CNN.
Several lower courts ruled in favor of the partygoers, saying that police did not have probable cause, and a federal jury even awarded the plaintiffs $680,000 in damages.
However, in a unanimous ruling issued Monday, the Supreme Court said the officers were within their rights to arrest the partygoers, as the attendees should have known not to hold a party in the supposedly empty house — which was clearly in disarray.
According to the Court’s opinion, police made the “entirely reasonable inference” after seeing the state of the house and observing the nature of the party — which included alcohol, drugs and strippers — that the attendees were there unlawfully.
“The living room had been converted into a makeshift strip club,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.
“Strippers in bras and thongs, with cash stuffed in their garter belts, were giving lap dances. Upstairs, the officers found 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.”
“Taken together, the condition of the house and the conduct of the party-goers allowed the officers to make several ‘common-sense conclusions about human behavior,'” Thomas added.
Thomas also cited the problem of “a bachelor party without a bachelor,” explaining that, “Based on the vagueness and implausibility of the partygoers’ stories, the officers could have reasonably inferred that they were lying and that their lies suggested a guilty mind.”
“(T)he officers found a group of people who claimed to be having a bachelor party with no bachelor, in a near-empty house, with strippers in the living room and sexual activity in the bedroom, and who fled at the first sign of police,” he wrote.
Considering all of these issues together, it was reasonable for police to infer that the partygoers were “knowingly taking advantage” of the fact that the house was vacant in order to throw a party.
The ruling was unanimous, though Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern that the Court was favoring “police unaccountability.”
“The court’s jurisprudence, I am concerned, sets the balance too heavily in favor of police unaccountability to the detriment of Fourth Amendment protection,” Ginsburg wrote.
As pointed out by USA Today, when the Court heard arguments for the case in October 2017, some justices “showed their age” after hearing about the bachelor party.
For example, 79-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer noted that in today’s day and age, young people often show up to parties without having prior knowledge regarding specific details. He said this is different from “the Middle Ages, with which I am more familiar.”
Justice Elena Kagan, 57, remembered when she would be invited to parties — “long, long ago” — where “marijuana was maybe present” and those in attendance often did not know the host personally.
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