Walls v. Commonwealth of Virginia

In Walls v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 2 Va. App. 639, 347 S.E.2d 175 (Va. App. 1986), police officers went to the defendant's trailer with a warrant for his arrest. When they knocked on the door, he answered and stepped outside, leaving the door open behind him. The defendant was placed under arrest outside of the trailer. Thereafter, one of the officers returned to the trailer, looked through the open door, and saw the defendant's fiance. Without asking permission to enter, the officer entered the trailer and told the fiance that the defendant had been arrested. He then asked her for permission to search the trailer, and she consented. The search revealed incriminating evidence. The Virginia appellate court rejected the Commonwealth's argument that the defendant's act of leaving the trailer door open behind him constituted an implied consent to the police entry. Noting that the prosecution "bears the burden of establishing consent and this burden is heavier where the alleged consent is based on an implication," it held that "an open door does not, alone, constitute an invitation to enter." Walls, 347 S.E.2d at 178 (citing United States v. Impink, 728 F.2d 1228, 1232 (9th Cir. 1984)). The court remarked that the defendant's failure to reach behind him and shut the door as he left could not be construed as an implied invitation to enter. The court in Walls also concluded that the defendant's fiance did not consent to the police entry into the trailer merely by standing in the room doing nothing, and that consent could not be inferred from the fact that she took no action to direct them to leave: "When . . . police officers suddenly appear uninvited in one's apartment, one's initial reaction is shock, not an immediate order to leave." If anything was being implied as the police officer walked through the door, it was that the fiance had no choice whether or not he came in. 347 S.E.2d at 179.