SCOTUS Limits When Law Enforcement Can Act Without Warrant


Based on a Supreme Court ruling, police in Tennessee may not be permitted to enter a person’s home without a warrant even if they do so as a matter of public protection. The Supreme Court determined that there was a difference in the rights of law enforcement to search a person’s vehicle without a warrant, which is permitted under the concept of “community care.”

What the Fourth Amendment does

The Fourth Amendment bans search and seizures that are deemed “unreasonable,” but determining what constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure is sometimes a matter for the court system to decide. This particular case occurred in Rhode Island, where police entered a man’s home in 2015, took him to a mental health facility for evaluation and seized his guns. This happened after the man had an argument with his wife. She left, went to a hotel, and called the police, expressing the concern that he was suicidal.

Reconsidering the lawsuit

The man had filed a lawsuit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit said that the action was permissible as a kind of community care. According to one lawyer for the Justice Department, when there was a possibility that a person could cause substantial harm, a warrant should not be required. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling was unanimous, and the appellate must reconsider the lawsuit. This decision may also have implications for defense attorneys.

When a person is taken into custody and throughout an investigation, law enforcement is required to observe an individual’s rights. Illegal search and seizure is one way that a person’s rights may be violated. For example, evidence could be gathered illegally. If this happens, the evidence might be thrown out, and this could lead to the dismissal of the entire case. Law enforcement might use excessive force or take a person into custody without cause, and this could also result in a case being dismissed.

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