With so much depressing news filling our computer and TV screens, it’s easy to feel like our country is headed for disaster. In many ways, it is. But I was encouraged by a recent 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed Fourth Amendment rights and slammed law enforcement for seizing a man’s firearms without a warrant.

This case didn’t get much attention from the mainstream media, so I’ll fill you in on the details.

A Rhode Island man named Edward Caniglia got into an argument with his wife. During the course of the argument, he put a handgun on a table and told his wife to “shoot [him] now and get it over with.” She declined (thank God) and spent the night at a hotel.

The next morning, she went back to her home accompanied by several officers and found her husband on the porch. Caniglia confirmed that he had put the handgun on the table but denied he was suicidal. He eventually submitted to be taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation but only after police allegedly promised not to take his firearms.

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After he drove away, officers entered his home, accompanied by Caniglia’s wife, and seized his firearms.

Sounds like a clear violation of Fourth Amendment rights, doesn’t it? The police did not have a warrant, and they didn’t even bother to secure a “red flag” order from a judge.

Unfortunately for Caniglia, his ordeal was just getting started. After working his way through the lower courts, the First Circuit Court upheld the seizure using a doctrine called “community caretaking.” The First Circuit cherry picked this idea from a 1973 case called Cady v. Dombrowski in which the Supreme Court allowed police officers to search an impounded vehicle without a warrant because it involved the completion of a non-criminal law-enforcement duty.

There’s just one problem: The Court in Cady explicitly stated that their ruling does not apply to a person’s home.

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“What is reasonable for vehicles is different from what is reasonable for homes. Cady acknowledged as much, and this Court has repeatedly ‘declined to expand the scope of . . . exceptions to the warrant requirement to permit warrantless entry into the home,’” Justice Clarence Thomas said in the unanimous opinion. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”

It’s too bad Caniglia had to spend so many years fighting this clear Fourth Amendment violation in court. But I’m glad that not even the gun-grabbing justices on the Supreme Court could find a loophole to justify this seizure.

Caniglia should get the mental help he needs, and his family should ensure he stays in a safe environment while doing so. But we live in a country of laws, not men. Law enforcement officers can’t unilaterally decide to seize a person’s property, and the highest court in the land once again confirmed that principle this week.

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.