The 4th Amendment was protected by SCOTUS 9-0. That would be what you’d call an unanimous decision. The case involved a fight between a husband and wife.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that warrantless gun confiscation from Americans’ homes is unconstitutional, voting unanimously on the side of a Rhode Island man whose firearms were taken by law enforcement without a warrant after his wife expressed concerns that he might hurt himself.
According to Caniglia v Strom, a lower court had previously determined that police confiscating the guns without a warrant fell under the Fourth Amendment’s “community caretaking” exception, but a 9-0 vote from the nation’s top court struck down that ruling.
The backstory is this. In 2015, Edward Caniglia and his wife had a very nasty fight. So nasty that he did something stupid and pulled out one of his two UNLOADED guns and told her to just shoot him. After more wrangling, she left and got a hotel room for the night. Later the next day, after repeatedly trying to get hold of him, she called the non-police number and asked for a welfare check. Cops show up with the impression that Caniglia might be suicidal.
After discussion and denials by Caniglia, just after he stepped out of the room to take his blood pressure medication, the cops decided to transport him to the hospital claiming he’s a suicide risk. Furthermore, they took it upon themselves to search the house and seize both guns and all the ammunition.
Caniglia was released hours later with the hospital telling law enforcement that they were way off base in this matter. It took over a year and the implementation of a lawsuit for Edward Caniglia’s guns and ammunition to be returned to him.
Here’s the kicker in all of this. The search and seizure was done WITHOUT a warrant of any kind. Furthermore, it seems his wife didn’t consent to the search either.
Yet the Rhode Island police department persisted.
The United States Supreme Court took a very dim view of the assertion that, because he was possibly, maybe, might have been suicidal, and bought out an unloaded pistol for a short time, that no warrant was needed to search the home and seize the weapons. Furthermore, they ALSO took a very dim view of the assertion that this move was necessary because it falls under the “community caretaking” standard.
In other words the police decided that because something happened IN THE PAST, exigent circumstances applied so let’s keep the community safe. The police decided to treat the situation as if it was a traffic stop in which they spot illegal drugs on the floor of the backseat.
Every single Supreme Court Justice disagreed with that assertion. ALL OF THEM.
— ABA Journal (@ABAJournal) May 17, 2021
““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,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court.
This is huge on many levels. First of all, it is indeed a very big help regarding our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Just because someone says that someone said something or stupidly talked about using their gun, or waved an unloaded gun around hours before – doesn’t always and shouldn’t always be considered a risk to anyone let alone themselves.
Secondly, the implications of this point also to how strong our 4th Amendment rights need to be and should be as an aid in protecting our 2nd Amendment rights.
Here’s another thing to consider with this. The Biden Administration went WAY LEFT and said this warrantless search was “reasonable.” Yes, folks, the Biden DOJ is on record as such.
“The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness,” the DOJ’s brief stated. “For criminal investigations, this Court has generally incorporated the Warrant Clause into the Fourth Amendment’s overarching reasonableness requirement, but it has not generally done so for searches or seizures objectively premised on justifications other than the investigation of wrongdoing.”
“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. And under all the circumstances here, they were,” the brief added.
The United States Supreme Court responded with a firm NO.
Those laws are so open to interpretation that they can be abused. And abused they have been. One of Colorado’s first cases shows just how Red Flag laws can be stretched into oblivion. The other part of this that definitely touches upon our 4th Amendment rights is that Red Flag laws are predicated upon removing property even if a crime has not been committed.
Someone says something about a gun, someone reports it, and police can show up and search without a warrant. That’s the implication that many have presumed upon with the Red Flag laws passed around this country. Red Flag laws that, applied wrongly, are an abuse of that American’s 4th, 2nd, and even 1st Amendment rights.
The 4th Amendment was put in place PRECISELY because the British were engaged in walking into the colonists homes, searching for and taking whatever they wanted, and throwing people in jail just because.
The United States Supreme Court protected all Americans against speculative warrantless search and seizure in our homes.
This is a huge win for Americans on every level.
Feature Photo Credit: Flag, Constitution by wynpnt via Pixabay, cropped and modified