Federal agents, hiding fifty to one hundred yards from defendant’s house, saw a car drive on to the property. They observed the defendant sell moonshine to the driver.
Whether the Fourth Amendment protection of privacy in persons, houses, papers, and effects extends to “open fields?”
No. Those observations made from the “open fields” are not subject to Fourth Amendment protections.
The concept of “open fields” is very old. The special protection accorded by the Fourth Amendment to the people in their ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ is not extended to the “open fields.” There is no intrusion onto reasonable expectation of privacy when government agents enter onto open fields. Therefore, there is no Fourth Amendment search. The Court said that, even if there had been a trespass, the observations were not obtained by an illegal search or seizure. The Court affirmed this viewpoint in U.S. v. Jones, which expanded the definition of a search to include trespass onto the property of others for the purpose of obtaining information.
265 U.S. 57, 44 S. Ct. 445 (1924)