• 68°

Court’s ruling on searches preserves privacy

In a rare win for privacy, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to reinforce protections around a person’s home, saying police must have a warrant to search the area around a house.

The case came before the court because a man arrested for allegedly stealing a motorcycle disputed the way the evidence was obtained.

Police had information that the stolen bike was parked in the driveway of a house where the suspect was living. The police officer saw the motorcycle under a tarp, removed the tarp, checked the VIN and discovered it was indeed stolen.

While this sounds like normal  — and effective — police work, the suspect argued that his conviction on the crime violated his constitutional rights.

Police have wide latitude when it comes to searching a vehicle, but a motorcycle parked in the area around a home is different, the court ruled.

It reinforces that police cannot simply look in your windows or look at your property, see something illegal and then start searching without a warrant.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the area around a house, known as the curtilage, is part of the home itself and cannot be searched without a warrant.

Courts have previously ruled that the curtilage is a protected area that requires a warrant, but they have also ruled that motor vehicles can be searched without a warrant if probable cause exists.

This week’s ruling establishes that the exception for vehicles does not apply if it’s located within that protected area.

For those who value privacy and a non-invasive government, the court’s decision is a win.