Brief filed: 01/15/2021
Caniglia v. Strom
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 20-157
Decision below 953 F.3d 112 (1st Cir. Mar. 13, 2020)
In Sutterfield v. City of Milwaukee, 751 F.3d 542, 553 (7th Cir. 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit observed that the distinctions among the exigent circumstances doctrine, the emergency aid doctrine, and the community caretaking doctrine “are not always clear.” In turn, these fuzzy distinctions have led to a “lack of clarity in judicial articulation and application of the three doctrines.” This lack of clarity means that courts deciding whether the community caretaking doctrine should apply to warrantless home entries often think that doctrine is needed to justify entries that are already covered by the exigent circumstances doctrine and/or the emergency aid doctrine. As set forth in this amici brief, this Court’s opinions defining and applying the exigent circumstances and emergency aid doctrines establish that police officers would need to rely on the community caretaking doctrine as an independent justification for warrantless home entries in only two potential situations: to address (1) non-bodily harms such as nuisances; and (2) non-imminent threats of bodily harm. Framed in that fashion, it is clear that a separate and independent rationale such as “community caretaking” – which was generated by the special circumstances attendant to automobile searches – does not justify invasion of the sanctity of the home. Indeed, the way that this Court distinguished its opinion in Coolidge in creating the community caretaking doctrine makes clear that the doctrine does not and should not apply to warrantless home entries. In addition, the capacity for a “community caretaking” exception that permits warrantless searches of the home would invite its use as an end run around the protections of the warrant requirement.
Matthew S. Dawson, Lynch & Pine, Providence, RI; Colin Miller, University of South Carolina Law School; Joshua L. Dratel, Dratel & Lewis, New York, NY.