The Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that police illegally seized a Rhode Island man’s firearms in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The SCOTUS decision overturned a 1st Circuit Court ruling that said police officers in the case were well within their right to confiscate the man’s firearms.
Police responded to a domestic violence call in 2015, at which point Edward Caniglia’s wife believed he was suicidal. He brought out a handgun, put it on the table, and instructed his wife to “shoot [him] and get it over with.” She ended up leaving for the night but had police conduct a welfare check after she failed to reach him, court documents explain.
When police arrived, Caniglia was sitting on the porch. He agreed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation under the condition that his firearms would not be seized. He was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation, at which point police entered his home and confiscated two of his firearms. Caniglia’s firearms were confiscated without a warrant because he was deemed a threat to himself and others, police said.
Caniglia sued to say his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Both the federal court and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals stated the police were well within their rights. They cited the “community caretaking exception,” which was established in the Cady v Dombrowski case. In that case, “an officer took a gun out of an impounded car without a warrant. The Supreme Court ruled at the time that police can conduct such warrantless searches if they are performing ‘community caretaking functions’ in a ‘reasonable’ manner,” TIME reported.
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