The United States Supreme Court has recently ruled that the community caretaker exception to the search warrant requirement does not apply to a person’s home. The name of the case is Caniglia v. Strom, and in a unanimous opinion the Court found that guns seized by the police after entering a home without a warrant were not admissible in evidence on the basis of the community caretaker exception.
The Caniglia case involved a married couple who had been arguing in their residence. During the fight the husband grabbed his gun and told his wife to shoot him. The wife took possession of the gun, and put it away, hiding the ammunition. She later left the house to stay at a hotel, and because she was worried that her husband might suicide, she called the police. The wife then met the police back at their home where the husband had remained. The police instructed the wife to stay in the car as they interviewed the husband.
The police believed that the husband posed a danger to himself and called for an ambulance to take him for a psychiatric evaluation. He claimed the police agreed that if he went to the hospital, they would not take his guns whereas the police claimed he consented to a search of his home. The wife, believing the officers that her husband had consented, then guided the police to where the guns were inside the home, and the police took possession of them. No arrest was made, and no charges were brought against the husband. The guns were eventually returned, but the Caniglia’s filed a lawsuit, nevertheless, claiming a violation of Section 1983 under the Second, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. In the lawsuit the Caniglia’s sought money damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.