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SCOTUS Decides Collins v. Virginia


The intersection of privacy, property, and police work can be challenging to navigate. Over the course of our nation’s history, numerous cases regarding the protections of the Fourth Amendment have been brought to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in order to establish when a warrant is necessary to conduct a search, how private property can be searched by law enforcement, what constitutes probable cause for search, and other related issues.

The recent case of Collins v. Virginia begs the question: Does the Fourth Amendment automobile exception bar police from searching vehicles parked on private property without a warrant?

First Things First: The Fourth Amendment Automobile Exception

In 1925, SCOTUS decided Caroll v. United States, at which point it concluded that the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unreasonable search and seizure of private property, does not legally prevent police from conducting warrantless searches of cars, boats, and other motor vehicles. The Court cited the impracticability of obtaining a warrant to search a vehicle which can be easily relocated. However, warrantless automobile searches are constitutionally objectionable when they are done without probable cause.

Collins v. Virginia

The Court’s recent decision in the case of Collins v. Virginia expands on our understanding of the extent to which the Fourth Amendment automobile exception can be applied.

In Albemarle County, Virginia, the driver of a visually distinct, stolen motorcycle twice escaped police, whose pursuit began when they witnessed the driver breaking traffic and safety laws. One policeman went to the suspect’s home and saw a motorcycle underneath a tarp siting in the driveway several feet away from the house. The officer walked up to the bike, looked under the tarp, and saw that it was the same motorcycle that had evaded police.

When the suspect arrived at his house, the officer questioned him about the bike. The man admitted that he had bought the stolen bike and was arrested.

 SCOTUS determined that while the police officer’s right to search the man’s motor vehicle without a warrant, the police officer’s action breached the Fourth Amendment protections on the man’s private property and the curtilage of his home (which includes the area immediately surrounding it and the driveway where the motorcycle was parked).

Criminal Defense Lawyers Serving Accused Persons in Columbus, OH

Have police violated your Fourth Amendment protections by illegally searching or seizing your property? Has your private property been searched without probably cause or without a warrant? Are you, like the plaintiff in Collins v. Virginia, a victim of unconstitutional treatment by police?

If so, our Columbus defense attorneys are here to help you make it right. We understand your rights and are equipped to protect them and be your voice in court. Connect with a member of our team at The Meranda Law Firm, LTD today to get started.

Call (614) 707-4239 today to receive a free consultation and secure the representation you need.