Supreme Court unanimously votes against home searches by police without warrant

The United States Supreme Court. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS)

On Monday the Supreme Court voted unanimously against warrantless police searches of a person’s residence, upholding the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution.

The Supreme Court decision overturned a 1st Circuit Court ruling that affirmed police acted well within the law when a warrantless search of a Rhode Island man’s home ended with police confiscating the man’s firearms. According to The Hill, this case derives from 2015 when Edward and Kim Caniglia seemed to be engaged in a marital dispute. During this dispute, Edward Caniglia takes his pistole out and tells his wife, “why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?” After this exchange, Kim Caniglia decides to hide the gun’s magazine and flees to a hotel for the night. She then contacts the police the very next day as she tried to check on Edward by calling the home but received no answer. She began to worry thinking that her husband could’ve harmed himself or committed suicide. When Kim Caniglia contacted authorities, she asked for the police officers to administer a wellness check on her husband and to usher her home from the hotel.

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Edward Caniglia appeared to be sitting on the porch of his home when police arrived. According to the Daily Wire, Edward Caniglia only agreed to do a psychiatric evaluation on the notion that his firearms would not be confiscated. While Edward was taken to a hospital for his evaluation, the police officers entered Caniglia’s home and confiscated two firearms without a warrant. Police officers explained it was in their best interest to do so for Edward’s safety and for others. Edward Caniglia then decided to file a lawsuit stating that his Fourth Amendment rights were infringed upon when the officers entered Edward’s residence and seized his firearms. 

Unfortunately for Caniglia, both the federal court and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the police officers due to the “community caretaking exception” that stems from Cady v. Dombrowski. In this case, “an officer took a gun out of an impounded car without a warrant. The Supreme Court ruled at the time that police can conduct such warrantless searches if they are preforming ‘community caretaking functions’ in a ‘reasonable’ manner,” as reported by TIME. 

Justice Clarence Thomas reassured that the Cady case is insignificant to the Caniglia case when stating, “Neither the holding nor logic of Cady justifies such warrantless searches and seizures in the home. Cady held that a warrantless search of an impounded vehicle for an unsecured firearm did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that the officers who patrol the “public highways” are often called to discharge noncriminal “community caretaking functions,” such as responding to disabled vehicles or investigating accidents. But searches of vehicles and homes are constitutionally different, as the Cady opinion repeatedly stressed. 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.” A recognition of the existence of “community caretaking” tasks, like rendering aid to motorists in disabled vehicles, is not an open-ended license to perform them anywhere.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU), the American Conservative Union (ACU), and the Cato Institute, along with many other groups, filed a joint amicus curiae brief in the Caniglia case to reinforce the insignificance of the Cady case application in the Caniglia case. At last, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edward Caniglia by reaffirming the protection of citizen’s rights by the Fourth Amendment.





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