The Biden administration urged the Supreme Court to uphold a warrantless gun confiscation ruling as the nation’s top court heard oral arguments Wednesday on Caniglia v Strom, a case that could have major consequences for the Fourth Amendment where policing, due process and mental health are concerned.
In its first amicus brief before the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice argued the actions taken by law enforcement to confiscate the petitioner’s firearms without a warrant were “reasonable.”
“The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness,” the DOJ’s brief stated. “For criminal investigations, this Court has generally incorporated the Warrant Clause into the Fourth Amendment’s overarching reasonableness requirement, but it has not generally done so for searches or seizures objectively premised on justifications other than the investigation of wrongdoing.”
“The ultimate question in this case is therefore not whether the respondent officers’ actions fit within some narrow warrant exception, but instead whether those actions were reasonable. And under all the circumstances here, they were,” the brief added.
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Caniglia and his wife were arguing when he put an unloaded gun on their table and said, “shoot me now and get it over with.” Following the argument, Caniglia’s wife called the non-emergency police line, leading to a visit from law enforcement. The police convinced Mr. Caniglia to go to the hospital for psychological evaluation, despite disagreeing that his behavior was “abnormal” or “agitated.”
While Mr. Caniglia was on his way to the hospital, his wife told the police that he had two pistols in the home, at which point the officers searched the home without a warrant; however, Mrs. Caniglia couldn’t provide legal consent because the police lied, telling her that Mr. Caniglia had consented to the seizure of his firearms.
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