[Liz George] 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.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the unanimous opinion for the Supreme Court, stating that law enforcement can execute “many civic tasks in modern society,” but there is “not an open-ended license to perform them anywhere.”
“The very core of the Fourth Amendment,” Thomas wrote, is the “right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable search and seizure.”
Some exceptions to the 4th Amendment do exist, including “exigent circumstances,” Forbes reported. For instance, if an officer sees an individual about to shoot another person through the window of a home, that officer has the right to enter the home to prevent the attack.
Another exception – the one on which this case was based – is called “community caretaking.” The Supreme Court previously determined that police can bypass the warrant requirement to perform “community caretaking functions, totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute,” noting a situation when police took a gun from the trunk of an impounded vehicle without a warrant.
“In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that the officers who patrol the ‘public highways’ are often called to discharge noncriminal ‘community caretaking functions,’ such as responding to disabled vehicles or investigating accidents. But searches of vehicles and homes are constitutionally different, as the Cady opinion repeatedly stressed,” Thomas wrote in the court’s opinion.
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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Liz George and published first at American Military News. Title changed by MDG]