What Is Curtilage?
So what is "curtilage"? The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and requires the issuance of warrants based on probable cause. Curtilage is "the land immediately surrounding and associated with the home" and "has been considered part of home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes" Oliver v. U.S, 466 U.S. 170 (1984). In a subsequent holding, the United States Supreme Court provides a four factor test for determining what constitutes curtilage: 1) The proximity of the area to the home; 2) Whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home; 3) The nature of the uses to which the area is put; and 4) The steps taken to protect the area from the observation by people passing by. U.S. v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987).
How Does This Affect Me?
So what does this mean for Charleston residents and homeowners? Property surrounding your home that meets the standard the Court lays out in that four factor test is curtilage and will enjoy the same protections regarding search and seizure as your home does. For example an enclosed pool or patio area close to your home, depending on the exact proximity and nature of the enclosure, might very likely meet the Court's test for curtilage. Property, even private property, which fails to meet the test for curtilage will not enjoy the protections guaranteed to your home by the Fourth Amendment. So when Charleston police want to search the curtilage of a home, they have to obtain a warrant just as they would to search a home. However the exceptions to the warrant requirement such as plain view and exigent circumstances will still apply to curtilage.
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If you have been arrested in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach or North Charleston, call and request a free consultation with Charleston criminal defense attorney John W. Molony regarding your case and your legal options. When you retain John W. Molony Law Firm, LLC, expect to have an attorney who fights for you, answers your phone calls and devotes the time and personal attention necessary to your case. John W. Molony Law Firm, LLC is conveniently located on James Island and ready to fight for you. John W. Molony Law Firm, LLC represents clients charged in all criminal matters.
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