Pearson v. Callahan


1. Whether police officers’ warrantless entry into a suspect’s home violates the Fourth Amendment, where the confidential informant, who was invited into the suspect’s home, established probable cause and signaled the officers to enter and make an arrest?

2. Does case law from other jurisdiction upholding such entries allow the police officers to assert a qualified immunity defense?

3. Should the Supreme Court overrule its decision in Saucier v. Katz, where it formulated a two-pronged test for determining whether qualified immunity applies?

Oral argument: 
October 14, 2008

The Utah police, without obtaining a warrant, arrested Afton Callahan and searched his home after Callahan was caught selling methamphetamine to a confidential informant. Callahan brought a civil suit alleging that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless and unreasonable searches. The officers assert that Callahan waived his privacy right when he invited a confidential informant into his home because he assumed the risk that the informant would divulge illegal activity to the police. They also argue that the “consent once removed” doctrine allows a warrantless search once a confidential informant is invited into the home and establishes probable cause. In the alternative, the officers raise a “qualified immunity” defense, which protects government officials from liability where a constitutional right is not clearly established and they could reasonably believe their conduct is constitutional. Callahan claims that the officers’ reasoning is unfounded; inviting the confidential informant into his home does not mean that officers can subsequently enter and search his home without a warrant. Furthermore, the consent once removed doctrine, as applied to confidential informants, has not been accepted by the Supreme Court or the Tenth Circuit. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether the officers violated the Fourth Amendment; whether they are entitled to the qualified immunity; and whether the two-pronged qualified immunity test as articulated in Saucier v. Katz