Thursday, March 25, 2021
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in a case that asks whether the Fourth Amendment's usual warrant requirement should be waived when the police conduct a warrantless home search while carrying out a so-called "community caretaker" function, such as when the cops perform a "wellness check" on a potentially troubled or injured person. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the Court's biggest Fourth Amendment hawks, raised a few objections to giving the cops that much leeway to enter the home without a warrant.
Sotomayor took issue with the lower court's judgment. "I am deeply concerned about the 1st Circuit's claim that there is no requirement that officers must select the least intrusive means of fulfilling community caretaking responsibilities," she told Marc Desisto, the attorney representing the Rhode Island officers and their superiors. For example, "why couldn't they ask the wife" for permission before entering the house? Why didn't the officers speak to a social worker or a psychiatrist? "How do we limit [the police] from substituting their own" judgment in such matters? Sotomayor demanded. "In this situation, there was no immediate danger," she said, yet the police "decided on their own to go in and seize the gun."
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