On Monday, May 17, the Supreme Court ruled in a very rare unanimous decision against warrantless gun seizure.
The court ruled that the Cranston, Rhode Island, police violated Edward Caniglia’s rights when they took his firearms after Mr. Caniglia voluntarily agreed to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Mr. Caniglia testified that he only agreed to go to the hospital if the police did not take his guns, but following his departure for the hospital, police entered his home and seized his weapons without a warrant.
“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.
The First Circuit had upheld the search and seizure under a “community caretaking” exception created by The Court regarding searches of impounded or abandoned vehicles. Thomas said that exception did not extend to a person’s home.
“A recognition of the existence of “community caretaking” tasks, like rendering aid to motorists in disabled vehicles, is not an open-ended license to perform them anywhere,” he said.
This case did not involve Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or so called “red flag” laws. Justice Samuel Alito stated that the case did closely match a potential “red flag” case. “This case also implicates another body of law that petitioner glossed over: the so-called ‘red flag’ laws that some states are now enacting,” he said in a concurrence.
Alito did clarify though that the ruling did not address the “red flag” issues but predicted that Fourth Amendment challenges might be brought against “red flag” cases.