Supreme Court case could test police powers of arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that could have implications for police arrest powers.

A U.S. Supreme Court case could have significant implications for police powers of arrest across the country. The case, as the Washington Post reports, stems from a house party in the nation's capital in 2008. Following noise complaints from neighbors, police arrested a number of the partygoers and charged them with trespassing, despite those partygoers claiming they didn't know the house party wasn't authorized by the house's owner. Those partygoers contend the police abused their arrest powers whereas the police contend they had reason to believe that the partygoers were committing a crime.

Notorious house party leads to arrests

In 2008 in Washington, D.C. a woman who went by the nickname "Peaches" sent out invites to a house party in the city's Northeast neighborhood. "Peaches" claimed to be a tenant of the property. By time the party was well underway it had resulted in several noise complaints from residents in the neighborhood, which resulted in the police being called.

When police arrived they found that "Peaches" was not actually present at the party and when she was contacted by the police she gave evasive answers about whether she had permission to host the party. When police contacted the property owner they found out that the party had not been authorized. They then arrested 21 partygoers and charged them trespassing.

Did police have probable cause?

However, those charges were all eventually dropped and those who had been arrested eventually sued the city and the police force. As The Atlantic reports, the partygoers claimed they had a reasonable belief that "Peaches" had permission to host the house party and that police lacked probable cause when making the arrests. Critics of the police action claim that allowing the arrests to stand would force anybody invited to a house party to verify with the property owner that the party has been authorized, something that they claim is unrealistic. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is supporting the arrested partygoers, claims that the arrests were a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Police, however, contend that the arrests met the standard of probable cause. They contend that allowing the lawsuit against the District to stand would result in police forces across the country having to constantly second guess themselves before making an arrest.

The country's top court has yet to rule on the case.

Criminal law defense

Those who have been arrested should contact a criminal defense attorney right away. As the above article shows, the police can and do make mistakes and in some cases they may abuse their power. It's important that defendants have on their side an attorney who will advocate for their rights and fight to protect their freedoms.