The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police are not allowed to enter and search a home without a warrant for the sake of “community caretaking.”
The ruling affirms that law enforcement cannot cite safety reasons as an exception to American’s Fourth Amendment right.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion that while police nowadays perform “many civil tasks,” the “recognition that these tasks exist” is not “an open-ended license to perform them anywhere.”
The Fourth Amendment protects ‘[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,’” he explained.
Worth noting: Justice Samuel Alito underlined in his concurrence that the ruling does not affect the Fourth Amendment exception known as the “exigent circumstances” exception, which gives police the right to enter homes without a warrant to help “an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.’”
“Today, more than ever, many people, including many elderly persons, live alone … but it is doubtful that she would have wanted it to be the place where she died alone and in agony,” Justice Alito wrote.
How we got here: The “community caretaking” exception stemmed from a 1973 decision that said the police officer was within his rights to search an impounded car for an unsecured firearm, without a warrant. Law enforcement pointed to the same exception when they confiscate firearms from Edward Caniglia’s home in Rhode Island.
Caniglia eventually took his argument to the Supreme Court.
What happened? Caniglia and his wife, Kim, an elderly couple, got into an argument that prompted him to give her one of his unloaded handguns and jokingly say to her “Why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?”
Kim Caniglia left the house for the night because of the argument. She tried to call her husband the next morning but he did not pick up the phone, which led her to call the police for a “well check.” Police went to see Edward, who told them that he would not harm himself. He even agreed to a psychiatric evaluation, which cleared him.
While he was getting checked up in the hospital, police went into his home and seized his guns. The officers also lied to Kim that her husband agreed to it, Forbes reported. They then refused to give his firearms back, forcing him to file a civil rights lawsuit.
Lower courts ruled against Caniglia.
What does Biden think? The White House called on the Supreme Court to uphold warrantless gun confiscations in certain situations. In an amicus brief the administration filed in March, they argued that “the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is ‘reasonableness.’”
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.