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Are spaces outside of your home subject to warrantless searches?

Are spaces outside of your home subject to warrantless searches?

| Aug 28, 2020 | Federal Criminal Defense

When the police want to build a case against you, gathering evidence and surveillance are often crucial to that process. You may know that officers can theoretically go through your trash and recycling when you bring them out to the curb. You may also know that police need a warrant or permission in most situations to enter your home.

What you may not realize is that there are certain parts of outdoor space around your house that are also protected under your right to privacy in your own home. These areas are known as the curtilage of your home. In some cases, police could knowingly violate your rights in their eagerness to gather evidence, such as when they enter a space where you should have the right to privacy.

What constitutes curtilage?

Different properties have different designs that affect the use of both indoor and outdoor spaces. For the purposes of your right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searching, only portions of your outdoor property have protection. Spaces that abut your home, such as your driveway, as well as spaces in your yard that would reasonably not be visible to others due to plants or fencing, are often part of your curtilage.

Can police search your curtilage without permission or a warrant?

The curtilage around your property has protection from search by law enforcement officers, which is a right that the United States Supreme Court has upheld. Police need a warrant to search the land near your home, especially if you have taken steps to make it private or often use it as an extension of your living space.