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Caniglia and the Fourth Amendment protections of the home

Can the police enter your home under the premise of "community caretaking" and seize guns or other evidence that they otherwise would not be able to access without a search warrant?

That was the question the US Supreme Court recently determined and which they decisively answered no.

In Caniglia v Strom, Edward Caniglia had an argument with his wife where at one point he got a handgun from the bedroom, put it on the table, and asked his wife to just shoot him now and get it over with. She left to spend the night away and in the morning asked the police to check on him after she couldn't reach him by phone. The police arrived and made contact with Mr. Caniglia, who was on the porch of his house. He denied that he was suicidal but the police wanted him to be medically evaluated at a hospital for mental illness or distress. Mr. Caniglia agreed to be transported and treated at a hospital only if the police promised not to confiscate any of his firearms that were in the house. The police agreed, however, after he was taken to the hospital the police entered his home and took two handguns anyway.

Mr. Caniglia sued claiming that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they entered his home and took his firearms after they expressly promised not to do so. The police responded by claiming that their action to enter and take the guns was allowed under what is commonly called the "community caretaking" warrant exception.

While police can generally enter homes without a warrant under certain emergency situations, legally called "exigent circumstances", the police in this case went beyond anything the Supreme Court has recognized before. A key fact here for the Court is that homes are specifically protected under the Fourth Amendment. What is allowable for a vehicle or out in public is not the same as what is allowable for warrantless searches and seizures of one's home.

This case is a good reminder and reinforcement of the idea that one's home is strongly protected from government intrusion absent a warrant. The core of the Fourth Amendment is to guard citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures as it comes to one's privacy and house.

It is important that lawyers are guarding citizen's fundamental rights in situations just like the one faced by Mr. Caniglia. I believe strongly in protecting all rights that keep the government from intruding into your privacy and home without legal authority to do so. In a free society, it is essential to liberty that the government must follow strict rules so that no one is abused like Mr. Caniglia.

If you believe you are a subject in a police investigation or you have recently been arrested, I handle all criminal defense and civil rights cases and would be happy to talk to you more about your rights and risks concerning your case. You can reach me at (989) 317-8333 or

-Kyle DeCloux, Attorney

The information contained in this post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney before making important decisions regarding your individual situation.

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