Can a Law Enforcement officer enter your homes curtilage in order to search a vehicle?
In Collins v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court examined the sanctity of a home’s curtilage, when balanced against the long-standing motor vehicle exception to the warrant requirement.
First let me define or explain what curtilage is as defined by the United States Supreme Court; an area adjacent to the home and to which activity of home life extends.
The motor vehicle exception was first established in Carroll v. United States. This exception allows officers to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle.
The exception is based on the idea that there is a lower expectation of privacy in motor vehicle due to the regulations under which they operate. Additionally, the ease of mobility creates an inherent exigency to prevent the removal of evidence and contraband.
In the case of Collins v. Virginia, Law Enforcement entered the curtilage of a home to examine a motorcycle that was covered by a tarp.
The curtilage of the home was the driveway along side of the home.
The Court determined that clearly the entry into the curtilage, in the area where the motorcycle was located, was an invasion of the defendants Forth Amendment interest, but then turned to question whether the Motor Vehicle exception would justify the invasion of the defendants Fourth Amendment interest. The Court held that the motor vehicle exception would not justify an entry into the curtilage.
The motor vehicle exception does not justify an entry into a home or its curtilage where the vehicle, for which the officer has probable cause, is parked within the home or it’s curtilage.