A recent US Supreme Court ruling has the potential to affect many people who have had vehicles searched by law enforcement, including at least one client of Skier & Associates. The Court in Collins v. Virginia held that the 4th Amendment’s “automobile exception” (which allows police to search an automobile without a warrant) does not apply to a vehicle parked next to a home, and that police are required to obtain a warrant before they can search the vehicle.
The facts of Collins were that police approached Collins’ home and lifted a tarp off of a motorcycle leaned up against his house in order to obtain the VIN from the vehicle. As a result, Collins was arrested for Receiving Stolen Property. The Court, in an 8-1 decision, held that this search was in violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches. Their reasoning was that the same expectation of privacy extends to vehicles parked near a house as applies to items within the house.
This is a clear win for those of us who treasure the 4th Amendment and the protections that it affords all citizens including, as Justice Ginsburg noted, those who cannot afford to park their vehicles inside a garage or other enclosed space. This decision also has led to the filing of a suppression motion in US Federal Court on behalf of a client currently in custody and charged with possession of items found in a vehicle parked adjacent to a home as which he was a guest.
This Supreme Court, in this and other decisions, seems to strongly support the idea of limiting government access to the private places of citizens, as I and others believe the framers of the Constitution intended.