Supreme Court Stands up for the Fourth Amendment and the Sanctity of the Home From Warrantless Seizures
The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow for the Fourth Amendment and gun rights earlier this month, in a unanimous decision that said law enforcement needs to get a warrant before it can seize firearms, including from people under care for mental health issues:
Writing at SCOTUSblog, Lenese Herbert said the ruling in Caniglia v. Strom clearly upheld the idea that:
…the home remains the most sacred space under the Fourth Amendment; its sanctity literally houses its privilege. Sans warrant, exigency or consent, governmental search and seizure within it is unconstitutional.
The case arose out of a domestic dispute:
During an August 2015 argument with his wife, Edward Caniglia offered her one of his unloaded guns and requested that she put him out of his misery. Instead, she threatened to call 911. After the couple’s argument continued, she left the marital home to overnight at a hotel. When she returned the next day, she enlisted Cranston, Rhode Island’s police department to perform a wellness check on her husband. They did. They also arranged transportation for Edward to obtain a psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital. He agreed to go, but only after officers purportedly agreed not to confiscate his weapons. However, as soon as he left, officers — apparently by deceiving his wife — entered the Caniglia home and seized Caniglia’s handguns and ammunition. Caniglia sued, alleging that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit sided with the officers by relying on Cady, a 1973 decision that upheld the warrantless “caretaking” search of a car that had been in an accident.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said this interpretation was clearly wrong:
A pithy four pages “long,” the opinion was unanimous and unambiguous: If police do not have the homeowner’s consent, an “exigent” circumstance, or a judicial warrant authorizing a search, then no version of Cady’s car exception applies to police entry into the home under the Fourth Amendment. “What is reasonable for vehicles is different from what is reasonable for homes,” Thomas wrote.
As it should be – and as common sense should have made abundantly clear in the lower courts.