Wallen v. McMullen 9thCIR 30OCT2018

Wallen v. McMullen 9thCIR 30OCT2018

The plaintiff in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil suit against a Washington state LEO alleged that the officer’s entry into her home without a warrant and under false pretenses violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The LEO had gained her cooperation and her consent to enter her home through the use of a ruse, claiming that he was seeking her assistance in a criminal investigation when in reality he was videotaping the encounter and was looking for evidence of social security benefits fraud on her part.

The panel held that the officer’s entry into plaintiff’s home without consent or a warrant in the course of a civil fraud investigation related to plaintiff’s disability benefits claim was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The panel nevertheless held that the officer had qualified immunity from suit because the right to be free from a search in the context of a civil or administrative investigation related to a determination of benefits had not been clearly established.

This officer received qualified immunity, but the next officer won’t because it is now clearly established that this type of ruse to gain consent to enter a suspect’s home renders the consent invalid and the search unreasonable.

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