A Tarp-Covered MotorCycle in Your Driveway: A Warrant is Required to Lift That Cover

Officer David Rhodes, of the Albemarle County Virginia Police Department was one of many officers in search of a driver on a distinctive black-and-orange motorcycle.  The driver has twice eluded police officers, and in one case there was a chase during which the rider exceeded 140 mph.  Using Facebook, Officer Rhodes found one Ryan Collins sitting atop what seemed to be the distinctive motorcycle.  Officer Rhodes was able to track Collins' location down to his girlfriend's address.  Officer Rhodes visited the property, warrantless, and invitationless.  He noted a tarp covering something in the driveway.  Officer Rhodes lifted the tarp and found the infamous black-and-orange cycle.Tracing the plates, Officer Rhodes learned that the infamous cycle was stolen. 

After losing his motion to suppress the search in the driveway, Collins was convicted of receiving stolen property.  He appealed the verdict to the Virginia Supreme Court, which held that the search was covered by the automobile exemption to the Fourth Amendment.  However, the U.S. Supreme court granted certiorari, and  in an 8-1 decisionheld that Officer Rhodes was required to have a warrant. You can listen to the oral argument here. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, held that the "automobile exception" is jsut that -- an exception for automobiles.  Her opinion noted that the property was located inside the curtilage of the home.  "Curtliage" is an old English term for a house and its fenced or bounded area.  Justice Alito was the lone dissenting judge and quoted Mr. Bumble from CJarles Dickens' Oliver Twist, . Justice Alito noted that Mr. Bumble responded, when told of a legal rule that did not comport with reality, "If that is the law, the law is an ass -- an idiot."  Collins v. Virginia, 2018 WL 2402551 (2018)

The majority opinion noted that the tarp was the equivalent of a garage.  Those with lesser means who could not afford a garage would not be entitled to the same protections as those with garages even though the tarp accomplished the same purpose as a garage in providing protection and privacy.  


Do you believe it would have made a difference if Mr. Collins had been home at the time?

Is the tarp the same as a garage?