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Laura AhrensJenniferHammackGeorgia College & State University
Federal vs. State
SCOTUS has held that “No Trespassing” signs on land /an accessible field do not allow an individual to claim an expectation of privacy for activities conducted thereon
Background: Fourth Amendment
“The right of the people to be secure in theirpersons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, andno warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularlydescribing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Background: Curtilage
The area immediately surrounding a dwelling that counts as an extension of the home for legal purposes (i.e. searches, seizures)Protected area under the Fourth Amendment
Background: Open Field
Anything plainly visible to the eye (even if on private property) is subject to search and seizureNot a protected area under the Fourth AmendmentNo expectation to a right of privacy within an open field area
Background: Open Field Doctrine
Hester v. United Statesfirst introduced the concept:“The special protection accorded by the Fourth Amendment to the people in their ‘persons, houses, papers and effects,’ is not extended to the open fields. The distinction between the latter and the house is as old as the common law”
Land use – Northern U.S.
CultureAdditional consideration of states’ rightsMore accepting of the unconventional or what may appear bizarre/offensive to other states“The right to be let alone” (People v. Scott)
Land use – Southern U.S.
CultureMore reliance upon federally established precedentAppear more focused on tradition in order to maintain “reasonable” civil liberties
Federal Scope
United States v. Dunn(1987)Legal Issue:Is the area located 50 yards from a fence surrounding a ranch house within the curtilage of the house (for Fourth Amendment purposes)?Holding: No
4 Step Test
Proximity to the (protected) home2. Within an enclosure surrounding the home3. Nature and uses of the area4. Steps taken to protect observation of the area from the public eye
1. Barn stood 60 yards from home (substantial distance)2. Barn was not within an area surrounding the home3. Barn was not being used for intimate activities associated with the home4. Little protection from pubic observation in the “open field”
Interesting Dissent
Justices Brennan and Marshall:Holding: View the situation and ruling as a violation of Fourth Amendment rights
Dissent Reasoning
Majority overlooked the role that a barn plays in rural life and ignores numerous precedent confirming that multiple outbuildings near a house are within the curtilage“A domestic building constituting an integral part of that group of structures making up the farm home.” -Walker v. U.S.
4 Step Test
Distance between home and barn does not remove the barn from curtilage2. Configuration of fences is irrelevant for the outbuilding in this case3. Failure of an area to be in domestic use does not deny it from being recognized within curtilage – smell of chemicals/sounds of motor do not remove protection from a protected outbuilding4. Respondent did in fact take extensive measures to ensure his privacy
State Scope (Northern U.S.)
People v. Scott(1992)Legal Issue: Does defendant maintain an expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 12 of the New York Constitution?Does theOliverruling adequately protect fundamental constitutional rights?___________________________________________Holdings: Yes / No
Whether or not an individual chooses to conceal private activity is irrelevant – the government is clearly infringing upon personal and [state] societal values protected by the Fourth Amendment“We believe that under the law of this State the citizens are entitled to more protection.” – Judge Hancock
State Scope (Southern U.S.)
Payton v. State(1985)Legal Issue: Do the initial intrusions by law enforcement officers constitute illegal searches based on the they were conducted without a search warrant and within the curtilage of defendant’s home?___________________________________________Holding: No
Court ruled, “No invasion of a legitimate expectation of privacy.”Relied largely upon the decision inOliver v. U.S.
Effects on individual liberties
Various interpretations have the ability to increase confusion in an already complex judicial systemAlthough multiple decisions and divergences from precedent add to complexity, ensured civil liberties is certainly a positive aspect of American government
Future Presumptions
More complexity to come: telephones, aerial surveillance, technology (and in homes)Application of previous federal cases to guide state cases dependent on relevant factsPredict future cases will be decided in light of a continued (if not increased) desire to maintain civil liberties at a more liberal, reasonable standard





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