The Fourth Amendment protection of every American has just gotten stronger as the U.S. Supreme Court decided that police may not search the area around a private home without a warrant. Additionally, the justices said the automobile exception didn't apply to vehicles searches next to a home.
The court made an 8-1 decision last week with Ryan Collins, a Virginia native, who argued that law enforcement entered his girlfriend's driveway and uncovered his motorcycle, which was actually reported stolen. Police conducted the search without a warrant and arrested Collins and charged him with receiving stolen property and convicted.
When the case (Collins v. Virginia) was brought to the Supreme Court, the decision was reversed. Writing for the court majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the private area surrounding the house, commonly known as the curtilage, is an extension of the home itself and cannot be searched without a warrant.
Police relied on the line of Supreme Court cases generally allowed them to search a vehicle without a warrant. However, the court rejected law enforcement’s contention, noting that the power to search a motor vehicle does not extend to the area around the house.
In the past, the Supreme Court ruled that police could search a vehicle without a warrant if they had probable cause to believe the evidence of a crime can be found inside the vehicle. Yet, the issue of this was how far this argument can go in removing the requirement for a warrant in the driveway of a private home.