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Fourth Amendment (Search Warrant) Petition to Watch - Share your thoughts!


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Issue: Whether the "community caretaking" exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement extends to the home. 

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-157/149833/20200810154908347_Caniglia v. Strom - Cert Petition.pdf 

[Introduction section of petition]

In Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433 (1973), this Court held that police officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they searched the trunk of a car that had been towed after an accident. The Court acknowledged that, “except in certain carefully defined classes of cases,” police cannot search private property without consent or a warrant. Id. at 439. It emphasized, however, that “there is a constitutional difference between houses and cars.” Id. (quoting Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 52 (1970)). “[P]olice officers . . . 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, totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute.” Id. at 441. The Court thus held that a “caretaking ‘search’ 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.” Id. at 447–48.

Cady drew on a line of cases “treating automobiles differently from houses” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 441; see also id. at 439–47 (discussing other automobile cases). And the Court limited Cady’s rule to vehicle searches. See, e.g., id. at 439 (emphasizing that “automobile searches” are different); id. at 441–42 (explaining the reasons why automobiles receive less Fourth Amendment protection); id. at 441 (describing “community caretaking functions” only in terms of “vehicle accidents”); id. at 446–48 (announcing a 2 holding limited to searches of cars). As the opinion took pains to make clear, it does not apply to houses. See id. at 439–42 (emphasizing “[t]he constitutional difference between . . . houses . . . and . . . vehicles”).

In the decades since Cady, however, the so-called “community caretaking” exception has taken on a life of its own. Courts across the country are deeply divided about whether the “community caretaking” exception can justify a warrantless intrusion into a home. There is at least a four-to-three split on that question among the federal Courts of Appeals. State courts are similarly divided. Courts have acknowledged the split repeatedly, as did the Defendants in their briefing below. See, e.g., Pet.App.60a n.3 (“[C]ourts are split about whether the community caretaking function standard [this] Court first set forth in Cady in the vehicle context also applies to searches of a home.”); Appellees’ App. Ct. Br. at 34 (“[T]here is a split among the federal circuits concerning whether the community caretaking function applies outside of the automobile context.”); Ray v. Twp. of Warren, 626 F.3d 170, 176– 77 (3d Cir. 2010) (acknowledging split); Sutterfield v. City of Milwaukee, 751 F.3d 542, 554 (7th Cir. 2014) (same); Corrigan v. Dist. of Columbia, 841 F.3d 1022, 1034 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (same).

In the decision below, the First Circuit “join[ed] ranks with those courts that have extended the community caretaking exception beyond the motor vehicle context.” Pet.App.16a. Police officers, the court emphasized, “provide an infinite variety of services to preserve and protect community safety.” Id. And “the community caretaking doctrine,” in the First Circuit’s view, “is designed to give police elbow 3 room to take appropriate action.” Id. “Given the doctrine’s core purpose, its gradual expansion since Cady, and the practical realities of policing,” the First Circuit held “that the community caretaking doctrine may, under the right circumstances, have purchase outside the motor vehicle context”— including to justify a “warrantless entry into an individual’s home” Id. at 16a–17a.

The First Circuit chose the wrong side of the circuit split. Exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement are “jealously and carefully drawn.” Jones v. United States, 357 U.S. 493, 499 (1958). And Cady’s exception is about cars, and cars only. Extending it into the home—the most protected of all private spaces, see, e.g., Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 589 (1980)—would create a loophole in the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement wide enough to drive a truck through. So long as an officer reasonably claims to be taking care of the community, he can disregard the Fourth Amendment’s protections.

This case, moreover, is an unusually good vehicle for addressing this important question. The courts below squarely decided it based on full briefing. Both courts recognized the split of authority, which is dispositive of Petitioner’s claim. Moreover, the First Circuit opinion carefully sets the “stage” for the “community caretaking” question by laying out the assumptions on it which it relied and the principles on which it did not—thus isolating the question presented and teeing it up for this Court’s review. Pet.App.10a–11a.

This Court should grant certiorari and hold that the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth 4 Amendment’s warrant requirement cannot justify incursions into the home.

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I actually did read this earlier but my only input is that I do NOT think it is a good idea for the police to be able to search someone's home without a warrant. I really don't think they should be able to search your vehicle either.

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Just now, Grumps said:

I actually did read this earlier but my only input is that I do NOT think it is a good idea for the police to be able to search someone's home without a warrant. I really don't think they should be able to search your vehicle either.

Let’s assume this case arose ten years ago. Let’s further assume the decision was 5-4, in favor of the “left” wing of the Court. Guess who the “swing” vote would have been.

I’ll give you a hint: his first name is Antonin.

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4 minutes ago, NolaAuTiger said:

Let’s assume this case arose ten years ago. Let’s further assume the decision was 5-4, in favor of the “left” wing of the Court. Guess who the “swing” vote would have been.

I’ll give you a hint: his first name is Antonin.

Wait??? Are you saying that SCOTUS justices are not required to toe the line of the party of the POTUS who appointed them? When did that change? 😀

Edited by Grumps
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