In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. As its name suggests, the exception acknowledges that police officers act not merely as law enforcers, but also as community caretakers, rendering aid to those in need, and acting to protect both people and property from harm. As originally conceived, the community caretaking exception was limited to situations involving automobiles where police were performing functions totally divorced from law enforcement. Over the years, courts have expanded the exception considerably. Police officers who suspect a crime has taken place may now search without a warrant as long as those officers—or a court—can articulate an objectively reasonable basis for community caretaking after the fact. Worse still, many jurisdictions allow these warrantless searches in homes. What began as a reasonable and limited exception has become a mechanism that allows police officers—with the courts at times acting as their willing accomplices—to use false concern for citizens’ welfare as a subterfuge to enter their homes at will to investigate crime. This Comment urges the U.S. Supreme Court to use the recently revived physical trespass standard to reshape the community caretaking exception and restore to their preeminent level the Fourth Amendment guarantees that once protected our hearths and homes.
Gregory T. Helding,
Stop Hammering Fourth Amendment Rights: Reshaping the Community Caretaking Exception With the Physical Intrusion Standard,
97 Marq. L. Rev. 123
Available at: http://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol97/iss1/6