Supreme Court

SCOTUS To Decide if Cops Need More 'Elbow Room' To Conduct Certain Warrantless Home Searches

A new case tests the limits of the “community caretaking exception” to the Fourth Amendment.

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In Cady v. Dombrowski (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court introduced a legal doctrine that has come to be known as the "community caretaking exception" to the Fourth Amendment. The case centered on a warrantless police search of a car that had been disabled and towed after an apparent drunk driving accident. The police "frequently investigate vehicle accidents in which there is no claim of criminal liability and engage in what, for want of a better term, may be described as community caretaking functions," the Court said. And that sort of "caretaking 'search,'" the ruling continued, "conducted…of a vehicle that was neither in the custody nor on the premises of its owner…was not unreasonable solely because a warrant had not been obtained."

In the coming months, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a new case that asks whether that exception to the Fourth Amendment's normal search warrant requirement should be extended to cover warrantless police searches of homes and residences.

The case is Caniglia v. Strom. It originated in 2015 when Cranston, Rhode Island, police paid a "well call" on 68-year-old Edward Caniglia. His wife had been unable to reach him after they had a fight and she was worried that he might be suicidal. So she called the authorities. The police took Caniglia to the hospital, where he was examined by a nurse and a social worker and discharged that same day. Meanwhile, the police entered his home without a warrant while he was gone and seized his two handguns. The present case centers on Caniglia's claim that this warrantless police action violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Caniglia lost before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit last year when that court upheld the officers' actions under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment. The circuit court did acknowledge that its decision "extended the community caretaking exception beyond the motor vehicle context." It justified that extension on the grounds that doing otherwise would place too many restrictions on the cops. The community caretaking doctrine, the 1st Circuit declared, "is designed to give police elbow room to take appropriate action."

Caniglia now wants the Supreme Court to overrule that lower court decision. Extending the community caretaking doctrine "into the home—the most protected of all private spaces—would create a loophole in the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement wide enough to drive a truck through," Caniglia and his lawyers told the justices. "So long as an officer reasonably claims to be taking care of the community, he can disregard the Fourth Amendment's protections."

Oral arguments in Caniglia v. Strom have not yet been scheduled.

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  2. Arresting people for posting offensive memes is the new “community caretaking.”

    1. We must take care the community only contains those with approved thoughts.

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    2. Will SCOTUS weigh in on the purge about to be conducted in the military?
      Will Reason have the balls to mention it?

      1. SCOTUS? Never. It is a “political question” and, in any event, nobody has any “standing.”

        Reason? Probably not. If they dive into a discussion of racial animus direct toward whites, even from a distance, they’re going to get the same kung fuck backhand across the face as The Federalist.

        Ironically enough, this is probably the clearest example of real “systemic” racism that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

  3. Caniglia lost before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit last year when that court upheld the officers’ actions under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment……..MORE DETAIL.

    1. In the 1st District, they do not recognize the very narrow automobile exception.

  4. Well, clearly we need the caretaker searched for cars tobe sure no infants are left alone overnight in freezing cold.
    However, there is no need to let them wander here and there just for the hell of it because a vindictive person tells lies about another person. In the case described, there was plenty of time to get a warrant based on probable cause, if they could convince a judge there WAS probable cause. They also could have waited until the homeowner’s return and asked permission.

    1. I wonder if one called the cops to make a “well call” on a local councilman who caller said “may be suicidal” if the cops would drag them off to the hospital and search their home in their absence>

      1. Nope, they would go to your address and claim the wrong address…then go “oopsie”…our bad…but, we acted in good faith…as they zip closed the body bag they placed your corpse in…hey, we got that going for us…

    2. Entering the home without a warrant is not the issue. Was there probable cause to enter the home in the first place?

      The real problem is that our courts have transfigured the entire concept of probable cause into something completely unrecognizable. The chain of logic linking a disparate and seemingly unrelated police observation to a justification for a search of someone’s home is, in practice, unlimited and entirely discretionary.

      1. Lack of a warrant is the issue, because there was no emergency in either case. Plenty of time to ask for a warrant. If there was no probable cause, then the warrant should be denied.

        1. Incorrect.

          The case concerns the proper scope of a warrantless search. Was there cause to enter the home? That is the issue.

    3. Don’t open the fucking door for cops. Ever. If they want in, they’ll figure it out.

      1. And when you do they’ll shoot your dog and then maybe optionally you or your children depending on how much you “resist”.

  5. A new case tests the limits of the “community caretaking exception” to the Fourth Amendment.SCOTUS To Decide if Cops Need More ‘Elbow Room’ To Conduct Certain Warrantless Home Searches……..MORE DETAIL.

  6. “The case is Caniglia v. Strom. It originated in 2015 when Cranston, Rhode Island, police paid a “well call” on 68-year-old Edward Caniglia. His wife had been unable to reach him after they had a fight and she was worried that he might be suicidal. So she called the authorities.”

    In other words, the wife was angry after the argument and decided to sic the cops on her husband by pretending to be “worried” so the cops would humiliate or even kill him. Naturally the cops went along.

    1. Yes this is typical of couples who fight that make under 6 figures.

  7. SCOTUS To Decide if Cops Need More ‘Elbow Room’

    It doesn’t take a lot of room to throw an elbow.

    1. In NJ, elbow room means having stalls wide enough so that your elbow doesn’t bump the glory hole, as you cover one nostril to snort coke off the toilet seat with the other.

  8. Elbow room? I’m more worried about cop’s extending their knee room.

    1. What your fat ass needs more room to kneel while licking boot?

  9. One of the more interesting dynamics in conservative politics lately is the tension between the “tough on crime” folks and the “git yer government out of my pedophilia” faction.

    1. Tell us again how wealthy Democrats like Bill Richardson, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Alan Dershowitz, Glenn Dubin, Dean Westlake, Zach Fansler, Matt Dababneh, Raul Bocanegra, Tony Mendoza, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Steve Lebsock, Angel Arce, Jeff Clemens, Joseph Souki, Dillon Bates, Stan Rosenberg, Dan Schoen, Mark Manendo, Kevin Ranker, Justin Parish, Cristina Garcia, Bob Hertzberg, Paul Rosenthal, Ira Silverstein, Lou Lang, Nate Boulton, Julian Carroll, Curt Anderson, Carl Trujillo, Duane Hall, Will Fourkiller, Daylin Leach, Cale Keable, Autumn Burke, Michael Padilla, Katie Hill and Anthony Weiner are all just victims of “Conservative Politics” and totally not molesters.

      1. You forgot Joe & Hunter Biden on your list

    2. You are again confusing conservatives, with your priest.

    3. They have been doing this for a long time. The 1st and 2nd Amendments must be taken at full, literal value, even to the extreme, but the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th Amendments? Nah, because we don’t want to make it hard on the cops.

  10. You know who else wanted more elbow room?

  11. His wife called the authorities. Seems like they could have asked her permission prior to searching the house “for his own good.”

  12. community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment

    Is that like the “border exception” that covers the area that nearly all of us live in?

    I’m pretty fucking sick of the government pulling exceptions to the bill of rights out of thin air.

    -jcr

  13. I don’t see what the problem is in extending exceptions to the Fourth Amendment a little bit further, it’s not like there’s very much of it left. If Google, Apple, and AT+T know what you’re doing every single second of the day then the government knows what you’re doing every single second of the day, and why pretend you have any privacy left at all?

    1. But of course if we use the same means to find out what they’re doing, we’re guilty of “hacking”.

  14. This falls under the Gun Owners are a Public Health Issuepenumbra.

    It’s right there in the Constitution. If you squint really, really hard.

  15. Exception already exists under a different purpose. It’s called exigent circumstances.

    1. Not in this case. The person was already out of the house. The cops went back and did their illegal search.

  16. Here’s hoping the SC makes the right decision, which seems obvious. But they defer to cops so frequently I’m not going to hold my breath.

    1. Achtung! Papers, please!

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