Sonia Sotomayor Questions Warrantless Gun Seizure in Big Fourth Amendment Case
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 Circ
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