The U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Police Rights Regarding Searching Homes

Written by Quinn Bourret (News Writer)

In a 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court determined that police do not have the right to search a home without a warrant as “community caretaking” exception does not overrule the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable search and seizures. This Supreme Court ruling assures that police have no right to search homes without a warrant, regardless of any special laws.

In 2015, Edward Caniglia had gotten into an argument with his wife. This argument escalated and he would then retrieve a gun and ask her to shoot him, telling her to “get me out of my misery”. She left, but fearing for her husband, called the police to make sure he was alright. He was brought to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, which Canigilia agreed to, as long as the police did not take his guns. The police searched his home anyway, and without a warrant, confiscated the two handguns he owned.

The weapons were not returned until Caniglia sued. He argued that his Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, had been infringed. Lower courts argued that his rights had not been infringed because of a 1973 case that set a community caretaking precedent. In that case, an injured police officer’s gun was seized from their car for safekeeping purposes after which it was found to be linked to a murder. The Supreme Court ruled that police officers could search disabled vehicles containing a weapon that could be stolen or otherwise cause harm. The court stated that police are involved in “community caretaking functions, totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute.” The community caretaking ruling is ill-defined and has been brought up only twice before.

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