US Supreme Court Rules Police Must Seek Warrant and Cannot Rely on Catchall Phrase “Community Caretaking” To Violate the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

U.S. Const., Amend IV.

Residences are specifically listed as an area protected by the Fourth Amendment, and receive heightened protection from the Constitution, because the physical entry of the home is the chief “evil” against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. (Payton v. New York (1980) 445 U.S. 573, 585.)

“When the State’s reason to believe incriminating evidence will be found becomes sufficiently great, the invasion of privacy becomes justified and a warrant to search and seize will issue”. (Fisher v. United States (1976) 425 U.S. 391, 400.)  In criminal investigations, a warrant to search for recoverable items is reasonable ‘only where there is probable cause to believe that they will be uncovered in a particular dwelling.  (United States v. Khan (1974) 415 U.S. 143, 155.)

Probable cause is not mere wishful thinking, or even relying on a hunch; it is not a substanceless label which exists by its mere invocation; it must, instead, supply a “substantial basis” that the subject to the search is where or what it is alleged to be. (Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. at 239.)  That is, the appropriate standard of probable cause is whether the affidavit states facts that make it substantially probable that there is specific property lawfully subject to seizure presently located in the particular place for which the warrant is sought. (People v. Superior Court (Brown) (1975) 49 Cal.App.3d 160, 165.)

The March 17, 2021 ruling by the US Supreme Court in Caniglia v. Strom has upheld the principles at the core of the Fourth Amendment protecting one’s home from government infringement without a showing of probable cause that evidence inside of the home relevant to a crime is likely to exist. The “community caretaking” function of police does not trump the Fourth Amendment, and thus police must apply to a magistrate or judge to obtain a warrant before entering a home and seizing one’s property as the Fourth Amendment commands.

In criminal cases,the defense can challenge the police search of one’s home, person, or any personal property searched by the police under the Fourth Amendment. At Honeychurch & Boyd we have been successful at challenging police overreach and illegal searches of homes, persons, property and effects since 1978 when our office was founded. We take pride in asserting our client’s Constitutional rights in court and ensuring that the government is held to account when they violate these rights.

If you or someone close to you has been charged with a crime after a police search in Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun, Benicia, Vallejo, Rio Vista, or Dixon, or within Yolo or Napa Counties, you need an experienced, dedicated criminal defense team on your side to seek to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Call our office today at 707-429-3111 for a free consultation to discuss your case and determine how we can help you.

In unanimous Fourth Amendment ruling, a reminder that there is, in fact, no place like home