The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the generally accepted “community caretaking” responsibilities that police have, for example, to search an abandoned vehicle for dangerous weapons, does not apply to homes.
The ruling Monday came in a case brought by Edward Caniglia, a Rhode Island man, who charged that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by promising they would not take his guns, but then immediately searching his home and taking them.
The dispute arose because Caniglia and his wife had argued. During the course of the dispute Edward Caniglia handed his wife an unloaded gun and told her to kill him.
She left, spent the night in a motel, and called police in the morning.
They arrived at her home together, and found Edward Caniglia on the porch. He agreed to go to a hospital for an exam on the condition officers leave his guns alone.
They promised that, but immediately reneged and he sued.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the officers violated the “very core of the Fourth Amendment.”
“What is reasonable for vehicles in different from what is reasonable for homes,” he said, in the unanimous opinion.
The ruling, in practicality, cuts down on the options police have for searching a home without a warrant.
The Biden administration had entered the case, which began in 2015, by arguing that police should be allowed to enter, search and seize as they did.
“The ultimate question in this case is therefore not whether the respondent officers’ actions fit within some narrow warrant exception, but instead whether those actions were reasonable,” Biden’s lawyers said.
The decision returned the case to the lower courts for proceedings that align with the Supreme Court determination.
The Washington Examiner reported the case “comes amid increasing friction between police and many of the communities they are tasked with protecting.”
Also, several prominent Democrats have openly advocated, sometimes in jest, sometimes not, sending police to Americans’ homes to confiscate weapons they consider unacceptable.
The Rutherford Institute had filed a friend-of-the-court briefing, arguing the case could set a dangerous precedent because police entered a citizen’s home without a warrant and took legal firearms.
“This case represents a blatant attempt by law enforcement to create gaping holes in the Fourth Amendment force field that is supposed to protect homeowners and their homes against warrantless invasions by the government,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
“What we do not need is yet another slippery slope argument that allows government officials to masquerade as community caretakers under the pretext of public health and safety in order to violate the Fourth Amendment at will.”
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