For advocates of individual rights, the recent decision by the Supreme Court on the “automobile exception” is a HUGE win.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rescinded the “automobile exception” that had been added to the Fourth Amendment. The exception regards the government’s right to search vehicles parked on one’s property.
The case in front of the justices stemmed from — if you can believe it — a high-speed chase.
Virginia police officers were in pursuit of someone on a motorcycle who had managed to evade capture.
The officers eventually showed up at the home of the person they believed owned the motorcycle.
Unfortunately for the officers, the motorcycle was under a tarp in the driveway.
Since the motorcycle was parked in the driveway of the home, that area is considered an extension of the home.
The police officers lifted the tarp without a warrant, thereby intruding on the curtilage of the home.
The officers did this believing the motorcycle fell under the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment, which allows law enforcement to search a vehicle if they have probable cause and the vehicle is “readily mobile.”
Readily mobile is defined as the vehicle being operational, but the vehicle does not have to be moving, nor does it have to be occupied.
Due to the circumstances described above, this exception does not apply in this case.
This will no doubt have a massive butterfly effect throughout law enforcement.
In addition, there may be previous cases where warrantless searches were conducted that will have to be revisited.
This ruling will also now severely restrict how officers conduct themselves in the field, as this decision, along with a decision from 2013, puts a bubble over the home and its surrounding areas unless the officers have a search warrant.