SCOTUS Ruling Preserves 2nd Amendment
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a unanimous decision for Mr. Edward Caniglia, ruled Monday that the community caretaking exception to allow for a warrantless search into a person’s home and confiscation of a person’s firearms does violate the 4th Amendment’s requirement for a warrant.
Caniglia v. Strom is a case involving a dispute between a married couple, which resulted in the husband requesting that his wife put him out of his misery, referencing the handgun he owned placed on the kitchen table. The following day law enforcement officers came on behalf of the wife, and recommend that Mr. Caniglia seek psychiatric help and seized Mr. Caniglia’s firearms. Mr. Caniglia sued “under Section 1983 alleging the seizure of his firearms constituted a violation of his rights under the Second and Fourth Amendments.”
The First Circuit Court of Appeals
Mr. Caniglia’s case advanced to the First Circuit Court of Appeals where they ruled against Mr. Caniglia, finding that the police officers the authority to search his house due to the community caretaker doctrine, which allowed police officers “performing community caretaking functions on private premises (including homes).” The First Circuit Court ruled in favor of the policy reasoning that the community caretaking doctrine exists to assist police officers to do their jobs in unforeseen circumstances. It further stated that the community caretaking doctrine should not be limited to motor vechicles. Mr. caniglia appealed to the Supreme Court and granted a hearing on March 24, 2021.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court focused on the question of how much authority does the community caretaking doctrine gives to police officers when conducting a warrantlessly search on an individual’s property in ” exigent circumstances ” and how it may conflict with the 4th Amendment of the U.S Constitution.
The community caretaking doctrine is not a new concept, it was first applied in the 1973 SCOTUS case Cady v. Dobrowski, which involved whether or not police officers can, in an effort to protect the public, search a vehicle and possibly seize items. In this case, the SCOTUS, in a 5-4 decision for Cady, found that there was an exception to the 4th Amendment’s protection from warrantless searches and seizures of Mr. Dombrowski’s wrecked vehicle due to it being a nuisance, and the possibility of harmful weaponry being left in the vehicle, such as Mr. Dombrowski’s firearm. Ultimately the SCOTUS concluded “that a “caretaking” seizure of the car, and search within for a weapon believed to be inside, was reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances”.Caniglia v. Strom, however, was unique considering the Fourth Amendment implications of unreasonable searches within a person’s home rather than a vehicle, the Second Amendment implications by the SCOTUS as to whether or not law enforcement will have the right to seize a firearm without a warrant, and finally, how the community caretaker exception might be appropriately applied in scenarios involving a police officer making a welfare check.
Within the majority’s opinion, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote “searches of vehicles and homes are constitutionally different… The very core of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee is the right of a person to retreat into his or her home and “ there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.” ” With this decision having been made, 9-0, in favor of Mr. Caniglia, one can certainly say that, once again, The Supreme Court of the United States has preserved the rights provided to all Americans established America’s Constitution.