I see another revolution in America’s future.
The 4th Amendment right against warrantless searches of a person’s home is a pillar of Americans’ constitutional liberties. Before a police officer, or any other government official, can enter your home, they must show a judge that they have probable cause that they will discover specific evidence of a crime.
There are some limited exceptions to this right. There is an “exigent circumstances” exception. If a police officer looks through a home’s window and sees a person about to stab another person, the officer can burst through the door to prevent the attack. There is also the “emergency aid” exception. If the officer looked through the same window and saw the resident collapsing from an apparent heart attack, the officer could run into the house to administer aid. Neither of these cases violates the 4th Amendment and few would argue that it should be otherwise.
However, there is a broader cousin to these amendments called the “community caretaking” exception. It originally derives from a case in which the police took a gun out of the trunk of an impounded vehicle without first obtaining a warrant. The Supreme Court held that there is a community caretaking exception to the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement because police perform “community caretaking functions, totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute.” The Court held that police activity in furtherance of these functions does not violate the 4th Amendment as long as it is executed in a “reasonable” manner.
Note that, unlike the first two exceptions, this exception is not limited to immediate emergencies. In the Supreme Court case just described there was only a general concern that vandals might eventually break into the impounded car and steal any weapons that were in the trunk. So the community care exception is far broader than the other two.
Also, all three exceptions allow warrantless searches so long as the police officer acted “reasonably”. That is one of the easiest constitutional standards to meet and is a significantly lower standard than “probable cause”, which is required for a warrant. As long as an officer might reasonably think that a warrantless search will alleviate a danger to the community, the search is considered constitutional.
……The Court has just announced that it will hear arguments next month in a case that presents this issue: Caniglia v. Strom. In this case, Mr. Caniglia was arguing with his wife and melodramatically put an unloaded gun on the table and said “shoot me now and get it over with.” His wife called a non-emergency number for the police who arrived shortly thereafter. The police disagreed about whether Mr. Caniglia was acting “normal” or “agitated” but they convinced him to take an ambulance to the local hospital for evaluation. The police did not accompany him.
While he was on his way to the hospital, Mrs. Caniglia told the police that her husband kept two handguns in the home. The police decided to search his home for the guns without obtaining a warrant. (Mrs. Caniglia’s consent to have the police search their home was legally negated because the police untruthfully told her that her husband had consented to the seizure of any guns.) The police located and seized the two guns. Mr. Caniglia sued for the violation of his Fourth Amendment right to privacy and his Second Amendment right to keep handguns in the home for self-protection.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the federal court just below the Supreme Court in Caniglia’s jurisdiction) sided with the police…..
……It is certainly true that the police need a good deal of discretion in carrying out their varied, complex, and sometimes dangerous duties. But they are also powerful agents of the government and their power is supposed to be restrained by the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect the home above all other places. And whatever one’s views on gun control may be, the Supreme Court has clearly held that the right to keep handguns in the home is at the core of the Second Amendment.
……And the question of what sort of caretaking falls under this exception is extremely vague. Will the police be able to use it, for example, to conduct warrantless searches of political protesters’ homes to make sure they aren’t planning on violent behavior at their next political rally? The Supreme Court is going to take a very close look at this case and there is a good chance that it will overrule the lower court’s decision.
All that shit about “community caretaking” and “reasonable” manner is subjective. Right now, there’s an onslaught against the Bill of Rights by the Dems and their party’s mayors, governors, and police.
There have been hundreds of stories about incompetent, overzealous cops busting down the wrong door to the wrong house, resulting in injuries and death.
The victims of these reckless fuckups don’t know if they’re being robbed, arrested, or targeted for gang violence.
In 2011, the Indiana Supreme Court scuttled the 4th Amendment by ruling that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. Not long after, the SCOTUS supported that ruling. Indiana’s governor fought back by enacting a law that gave citizens the right to defend themselves against unlawful entry by cops.
If the SCOTUS goes along with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, there will be out of control law enforcement departments who will take this as a license to raid your home just because they feel like it. State legislatures will have to follow Indiana’s example by passing laws that protect civil liberties. The Dem governors won’t do it, and we can only hope that the Republican governors have the guts.