The Supreme Court held today that the so-called “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment, which allows certain warrantless searches of vehicles, does not extend to the home. Earlier this year, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Firearms Policy Foundation (FPF), and Independence Institute filed a brief in support of the petitioner, authored by Joseph Greenlee, FPC’s Director of Constitutional Studies, that extensively detailed the history behind the Constitution’s protections against home searches, arguing that “American resistance to home invasions ultimately led to the American Revolution” and that “extending the community caretaking exception to the home would undermine the constitutional text, the founders’ intent, and centuries of tradition.” The opinion in Caniglia v. Strom can be found at FPCLegal.org.
Noting that the Court previously “recognized a few permissible invasions of the home and its curtilage,” the Court’s unanimous opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, vacated and remanded last year’s opinion from the First Circuit, noting that the lower court went “beyond anything this Court has recognized,” and that “[w]hat is reasonable for vehicles is different from what is reasonable for homes.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Alito mentioned that today’s opinion does not address “red flag” laws that “enable the police to seize guns pursuant to a court order to prevent their use for suicide or the infliction of harm on innocent persons.” The justice also noted that “[p]rovisions of red flag laws may be challenged under the Fourth Amendment, and those cases may come before us.” FPC has supported litigation against “red flag” orders and will continue to raise challenges against such unconstitutional laws.
“Today’s opinion acknowledges something that America’s Constitution and founders were already quite clear about—that the People should be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and that the sanctity of the home is central to American freedom,” explained Adam Kraut, FPC’s Senior Director of Legal Operations. “As our brief made clear, these so-called ‘community caretaking’ searches of homes and seizures of firearms are based on the flimsiest of standards, without any historical support. They violate the text of the Constitution and its original public meaning, and are nothing less than a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. We are delighted that the Court affirmed that truth in today’s unanimous decision.”