Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Get Off My Lawn!

Police Need Warrants for Driveway Searches:

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that police officers must generally have warrants to enter a home’s driveway in search of stolen vehicles.

The question for the justices was whether the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, allowed this one.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the search was proper under “the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.”
The exception, the United States Supreme Court has said, is based on the “ready mobility” of vehicles and “the pervasive regulation of vehicles capable of traveling on the public highways.”
On the other hand, the court has said, “when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals.” The amendment’s protections, the court had ruled, extend to a home’s “curtilage,” meaning the areas immediately surrounding it, including driveways.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for an eight-justice majority, said the case involved a clash of those two principles.
“The question before the court,” she wrote, “is whether the automobile exception justifies the invasion of the curtilage. The answer is no.”
“To allow an officer to rely on the automobile exception to gain entry into a house or its curtilage for the purpose of conducting a vehicle search,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, “would unmoor the exception from its justifications, render hollow the core Fourth Amendment protection the Constitution extends to the house and its curtilage, and transform what was meant to be an exception into a tool with far broader application.”
“Indeed, its name alone should make all this clear enough,” she wrote. “It is, after all, an exception for automobiles.”
It's interesting, frankly, that this was even an issue. Curtilage has always applied to property surrounding a home, including attached garages, free-standing storage sheds, tree houses, pretty much any area, paved or unpaved, that is considered the property of said home/dwelling. 

So a car parked in your driveway is not "ready mobility" in that sense. If you had driven the car into your driveway while being chased, sure, ready mobility. But a parked car in a driveway is part and parcel of the home/dwelling and would require the same 4th amendment protection (also: for the same reason if someone breaks into your car while it is sitting in your driveway, you file a claim under your homeowner's policy, not auto). 

Almost a unanimous verdict at 8-1, but you knew there had to be at least one.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented, saying the search had been reasonable and thus constitutional. The motorcycle, he wrote, was just a car’s length or two from the curb. “If the motorcycle had been parked at the curb, instead of in the driveway,” he wrote, “it is undisputed that Rhodes could have searched it without obtaining a warrant.”
So? See also: "ready mobility."
In his dissent in the case, Collins v. Virginia, No. 16-1027, Justice Alito cited a passage from “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. “An ordinary person of common sense would react to the court’s decision the way Mr. Bumble famously responded when told about a legal rule that did not comport with the reality of everyday life,” Justice Alito wrote. “If that is the law, he exclaimed, ‘the law is a ass — a idiot.’ ”
Well, if anyone would know an ass or an idiot... I mean, they even got Clarence Thomas and Anne Burford's kid to go along with this decision. 

But Alito be Alito.

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