Sonia Sotomayor Questions Warrantless Gun Seizure in Big Fourth Amendment Case

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 3 months ago

Reason.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in a case that asks whether the Fourth Amendment’s usual warrant requirement should be waived when the police conduct a warrantless home search while carrying out a so-called “community caretaker” function, such as when the cops perform a “wellness check” on a potentially troubled or injured person. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the Court’s biggest Fourth Amendment hawks, raised a few objections to giving the cops that much leeway to enter the home without a warrant.

The case is Caniglia v. Strom. In 2015, Rhode Island police paid a “well call” on 68-year-old Edward Caniglia after his wife reported to authorities that he might be suicidal. The couple had gotten into a fight the night before and she had left to sleep elsewhere. When she couldn’t reach him the next morning, she called the cops. The officers who visited the house had Caniglia taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was examined by a nurse and a social worker and discharged the same day. In the meantime, the police entered Caniglia’s home without a warrant and seized his handguns. The case centers on Caniglia’s claim that the warrantless search and seizure violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled in the favor of the officers in 2020, holding that the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment was sufficient to cover the matter at issue. The community caretaking doctrine, the 1st Circuit maintained, “is designed to give police elbow room to take appropriate action.”

Sotomayor took issue with the lower court’s judgment. “I am deeply concerned about the 1st Circuit’s claim that there is no requirement that officers must select the least intrusive means of fulfilling community caretaking responsibilities,” she told Marc Desisto, the attorney representing the Rhode Island officers and their superiors. For example, “why couldn’t they ask the wife” for permission before entering the house? Why didn’t the officers speak to a social worker or a psychiatrist? “How do we limit [the police] from substituting their own” judgment in such matters? Sotomayor demanded. “In this situation, there was no immediate danger,” she said, yet the police “decided on their own to go in and seize the gun.”

Quite obviously, I don’t concur with the notion of anyone as “community caretaker.”  The community doesn’t need a nanny.

But at least she is giving guff to the notion of limitless search and seizure.  Why aren’t the other justices doing that?  The entire first circuit court of appeals should have been brought in naked to the proceedings, beaten senseless, and then put in stocks in the community square for siding with the police for such a communist undertaking as that.


Comments

  1. On March 25, 2021 at 10:27 pm, George 1 said:

    I think at this point the court is all theater. Sotomayor was just this episodes designated dissenter. They all know what they are going to decide and just act as though there is real contemplation going on.

    The exception is Justice Clarence Thomas.

  2. On March 26, 2021 at 8:13 am, Fred said:

    “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

    I’ve read the 4a several times and for the life of me can’t find the “community caretaking” exception anywhere. But then again, I’m not a fancy pants harvard educated pin head know it all ivory tower devil worshiper so that might be why.

  3. On March 26, 2021 at 8:34 am, PubliusII said:

    I’m with George 1; the USSC is pure kabuki theater, again except for Justice Thomas. They showed that in their response to the election petitions.

    We’re not going to vote our way out of this.

  4. On March 26, 2021 at 9:20 am, NOG said:

    My question is if the police have no legal duty to protect anyone in that community (how many dismissed lawsuits where the police don’t bother to show up to a 911 emergency call?), why do they have a “community caretaking” exception? Seems like they want their cake and they want to eat ours too. No exceptions period.

  5. On March 26, 2021 at 2:30 pm, BTPost said:

    The “Community Caretaker Exemption” was instituted for removing vehicles from Roadways, to get the Roads opened back up for the traveling Public, after an accident.. 4th Amendment requires the Police to get a Warrant to open or deal with someones Vehicle.. So SCOTUS ruled that the Police could enter and help remove a vehicle blocking a Roadway, without such a warrant, issued. It was the 1st US Circuit Court that extended this to exemption your Home, and very Likely this will be struck down as totally UnConstitutional…

  6. On March 26, 2021 at 5:26 pm, Sisu said:

    All interesting comments – George 1, NOG and BTPost.

    I also don’t understand why police need nor have (other than that it makes them “more valuable” when contracts get negotiated) accepted the role of “community caretaker”. As I have read, it appears to be assuming some of the primary responsibility Japan’s local neighborhood police/psychologist who has virtual unlimited discretion as to when to pry into an individual’s personal affairs. (It may be part of the reason for the high suicide rate in Japan – no privacy.)

    Separately, I am confused as to why Mrs. Caniglia is allowed to create such havoc with impunity when it is clear all she wanted to do is “win one argument”.

  7. On March 26, 2021 at 7:06 pm, Billy said:

    May I suggest an armstrongeconomics.com posted on this subject today

  8. On March 26, 2021 at 10:40 pm, The Golden Age Of Wireless said:

    She’s afraid a mommygov “caretaker” would uncover some illegal activity going on in the humble abode of an indispensable diverse replacement?
    That is so cute how she thinks that the rule of law still exists.
    Some people are a little slow on the uptake.

  9. On March 27, 2021 at 10:11 am, TRX said:

    Suicide isn’t even a crime in about half the states.

    Soo… the Supremes have ruled the police have no obligation to respond to a call, and now the issue is whether they can respond at jackboot and gunpoint even if no crime has been committed. Wait, the Supremes also ruled that police can arrest you even if they don’t know if a crime has been committed. And then they have “qualified immunity.” And the prosecutors get a free ride on perjury with “parallel construction.”

    If you were paranoid, you’d think the game was rigged against the citizenry…

  10. On March 27, 2021 at 4:33 pm, Michael (from Utah) said:

    The Supreme Court, in 99.999% of cases, will rule in whatever way that keeps power with the state and away from individual citizens.

  11. On March 27, 2021 at 7:45 pm, 21stCenturyCassandra said:

    The Wide Latina as the voice of reason? Last time that happened was when she dissented in Bruesewitz v Wyeth.

  12. On March 28, 2021 at 2:02 pm, ExpatNJ said:

    Following an unreleated article at Dean’s blog, this was found (apologies to Capt for link):

    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/welfare-check-by-spd-turns-into-ordeal-for-74-year-old-retiree-who-was-handcuffed-held-at-gunpoint-in-own-home/

    And yet, the public clamors for more.

  13. On March 28, 2021 at 5:11 pm, Daniel K Day said:

    Billy, I couldn’t get to the Armstrong post you mentioned. This was not a bad substitute:
    https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/armstrongeconomics101/opinion/good-laugh/

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