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LEGAL

RESEARCH

Collins v. Virginia

Facts

While investigating two traffic incidents involving a motorcycle with an extended frame colored orange and black, Officer David Rhodes discovered that the motorcycle was likely stolen by Ryan Collins. On Collins’ Facebook profile, Officer Rhodes found pictures of a similar motorcycle parked in a house’s driveway. He drove to the house and parked on the street, where he could see what looked like the same motorcycle parked under a white tarp in the same spot as in the pictures. Without a warrant, Officer Rhodes walked to the top of the driveway, removed the tarp, confirmed that the motorcycle was stolen by checking the license plate and vehicle identification numbers, took a picture of the motorcycle without the tarp, covered it back up, and returned to his car to wait for Collins. When Collins arrived, Officer Rhodes arrested him.

Issue

Whether the warrantless search of the motorcycle in the curtilage of the suspect’s home was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Held

The warrantless search of the motorcycle in the curtilage of the suspect’s home was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The automobile exception to the warrant requirement does not permit the warrantless entry of a home or its curtilage to search a vehicle therein. Therefore, the evidence of the stolen motorcycle should have been suppressed, and the suspect’s conviction for receiving stolen property should be overturned.

Discussion

To give full practical effect to the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion into a person’s home, “curtilage,” which is the area immediately surrounding and associated with the home, is considered to be part of the home itself. When an officer physically intrudes on the curtilage to gather evidence, a Fourth Amendment search has occurred and is presumptively unreasonable absent a warrant. The automobile exception to the warrant requirement permits officers to search a vehicle without a warrant when there is probable cause, but it does not allow for the warrantless entry of a home or its curtilage to search a vehicle therein.

Citation

201 L. Ed. 2d 9, 138 S. Ct. 1663 (2018)

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