US Supreme Court restricts scope of police searches

Washington,   The US Supreme Court on Tuesday in an 8-1 ruling limited the scope of police searches, ruling that police officers must have a warrant to go through a vehicle parked at a home or on its surrounding property.

The final decision reversed a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that found the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception allows for warrantless searches of vehicles anytime, anywhere, including at a home or on its surrounding property, which is known as curtilage, Xinhua reported.

Citing court precedent in her majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment has occurred when a law enforcement officer physically intrudes on the curtilage to gather evidence.

“Such conduct as this is presumptively unreasonable absent a warrant,” she said.

She said the lower court ruling would grant constitutional rights to people with the financial means to afford residences with garages in which to store their vehicles, but deprive people without such resources any individualized consideration as to whether the areas in which they store their vehicles qualify as curtilage.

The Virginia case centers on Ryan Collins, who argued police had violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure when they trespassed on the property of his girlfriend’s house, lifted the tarp that covered a black and orange motorcycle, ran its plates and confirmed it was stolen, said the report.

Police had suspected the motorcycle was stolen after Collins twice eluded officers who had tried to pull him over for a traffic infraction and found pictures of the bike parked at the top of a driveway on Collins’s Facebook page.