United States v. William Dale Wooden (6th Cir. December 2019)
Fourth Amendment – Defendant’s consent for plainclothes officer to enter his home was voluntary and not tainted by unlawful police deception, despite the fact that the officer did not identify himself as an officer and simply asked to speak to the defendant’s wife and come inside the house to “get out of the cold.”
William Wooden was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Leading up to his arrest, several police officers came to his house, believing that Wooden and his wife were harboring a fugitive. One of the officers, who was not in uniform, knocked on Wooden’s front door. When Wooden answered, the plainclothes officer asked to speak to Wooden’s wife and asked if he come inside “to stay warm.” Wooden allowed the officer in, and the officer arrested Wooden after seeing him pick up a rifle in the hallway. After Wooden’s arrest, officers searched the house and found other firearms.
Wooden filed a motion to suppress, which was denied, then appealed the district court’s order. On appeal, the central issue was whether the Wooden’s consent was induced by unlawful “police deception.” After finding that Wooden did not waive the issue, but that plain error review applied, the Court concluded that any “deception” by the officer was not improper under the Fourth Amendment. The Court emphasized that the officer did not take any “affirmative steps” to deceive Wooden regarding his identity—he was “silent as to his official position” while asking to speak to Wooden’s wife and to step inside the house. The deception was not improper under Supreme Court case law given that “an officer’s undercover status does not amount to deception under ordinary trespass principles.”
The Court affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the motion to suppress and held that Wooden’s burglary convictions under Georgia law qualified as crimes of violence under the ACCA.
On Appeal from the Eastern District of Tennessee
Opinion by Readler, joined by Gilman and Kethledge