What is private on your property?

The Supreme Court (US) has several times issued “guidance” on what can and cannot be considered private property in searches under the Fourth Amendment.

The current status is – and always subject to further review by the court in future cases – the inside of your home and it’s “curtilage” require a search warrant (in most cases) for police to perform a search. But what is curtilage? Well it is such a little used word that most dictionaries will claim it to be misspelled.  It is that part of your home that is a part of it, not the house itself. It may be your fenced yard, unless maybe it is so large as to be considered an open field. It might be your driveway, if it is not a likely pathway where friends, neighbors, solicitors, the mailman or politicians might approach your door to knock. It might be an area behind a section of fence or screening that blocks it from the street. But, it is not your front porch, unless you have a security fence that would prevent unwanted neighbors or politicians or whatever from reaching it.

“The Court explains some of this by saying that it would not be fair to give extra Fourth Amendment protection to people who can afford a fully enclosed garage for their vehicles and less protection to those who must park in an open driveway. This sounds laudable, except for the fact that Fourth Amendment protection almost always tracks wealth. People who live in apartments likely have no “curtilage” at all in which to enjoy privacy. And people who live in single-room residences have exactly one room in which to enjoy the privacy associated with “houses” in the Fourth Amendment. In contrast, the owner of a mansion might have many thousands of square feet that the Fourth Amendment protects.”

Here is a link to the article quoted above:  https://verdict.justia.com/2018/07/18/collins-v-virginia-an-innocuous-fourth-amendment-decision-about-curtilage

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