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The Supreme Court’s decision in Collins v. Commonwealth

Refusing to grant law enforcement yet another loophole to encroach on the rights of citizens to privacy in their homes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police may not intrude on private property in order to carry out a warrantless search of a vehicle parked near a residence. In its 8-1 decision in Collins v. Virginia, the Court rejected Virginia’s claim that warrantless police searches of vehicles are allowed under the Fourth Amendment’s “automobile exception” regardless of where the vehicle is located. Under the “automobile exception,” police have greater leeway to search vehicles on public streets without a warrant. 

In arguing against a dangerous expansion of the “automobile exception,” The Rutherford Institute filed an amicus brief in the case urging the Supreme Court not to provide law enforcement with a warrantless means of bypassing the Fourth Amendment right of citizens to be secure within the privacy of their homes. In writing for the majority, Justice Sotomayor echoed this concern: “To allow an officer to rely on the automobile exception to gain entry to a house or its curtilage for the purpose of conducting a vehicle search would unmoor the exception from its justifications, render hollow the Fourth Amendment protection the Constitution extends to the house and its curtilage, and transform what was meant to be an exception into a tool with far broader application. Indeed, its name alone should make all this clear enough: It is, after all, an exception for automobiles.”


May 29, 2018 • Fourth Amendment Victory: 8-1 Supreme Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Search Vehicle on Private Property, Refuses to Extend Automobile Exception


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