How Recent Court Decisions May Affect Warrantless Searches by Police

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Hartford criminal defense lawyerThe actions of police officers in criminal cases have come under scrutiny in recent years. In many cases, criminal charges are based on evidence uncovered during police searches. While search warrants are usually required before police officers can search a person’s home or property, there are some situations where police have claimed that they are allowed to conduct searches without obtaining a warrant. Some recent rulings by the Supreme Court have limited the types of warrantless searches that police can perform, and this may affect the types of evidence that can be used against those who are facing criminal charges.

Warrantless Searches and Community Caretaking

In May 2021, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Caniglia v. Strom, in which a Rhode Island man’s weapons were confiscated by police officers. Following an argument between the man and his wife, police were asked to perform a wellness check, and they informed the man that if he agreed to a mental health evaluation, his legally obtained weapons would not be confiscated. However, while the man was receiving the evaluation, the officers entered his home and took his weapons, claiming that this was done for “safekeeping.”

The key issue in this case involved whether the officers were allowed to enter and search the man’s home without a warrant because they were performing “community caretaking” functions. In the past, police have been able to receive exceptions to the Fourth Amendment requirement to obtain a search warrant in cases where they were performing these types of functions. However, advocates for civil liberties have stated that “community caretaking” has not been well-defined, and even though this exception was originally meant to allow police to search a vehicle that had been impounded, it has been used in a wide variety of situations to justify searches of people’s homes.

The Supreme Court sided with the man in the case, ruling that while police do perform community caretaking functions, this does not justify warrantless searches and seizures in a person’s home. This decision also played a role in a recent Iowa case in which a man was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after police entered and searched his home based on suspicions of domestic violence. Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that while officers may be allowed to enter a home if they believe a person in the home has been seriously injured or threatened with injury, the officers in this case were not allowed to justify a warrantless search based on the community caretaking exception.

Contact a Connecticut Criminal Law Attorney

In many cases, criminal charges are based on the evidence seized by police officers. If this evidence was obtained illegally due to a warrantless search, it should not be used in a criminal case. At the Woolf Law Firm, we can review the evidence that will play a role in your criminal trial, and we will determine whether your case may be affected by a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. To get the representation you deserve, contact our Hartford, Connecticut criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 and set up a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://www.courthousenews.com/high-court-tells-eighth-circuit-to-reconsider-challenge-to-warrantless-entry/

https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-rhode-island-files-brief-us-supreme-court-major-search-seizure-case-rhode-island

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