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Collins v. Virginia

Supreme Court of the United States

January 9, 2018, Argued; May 29, 2018, Decided

No. 16-1027.

Opinion

Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court.

 [*1668]  This case presents the question whether the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment permits a police officer, uninvited and without a warrant, to enter the curtilage of a home in order to search a vehicle parked therein. It does not.

Officer Matthew McCall of the Albemarle [***6]  County Police Department in Virginia saw the driver of an orange and black motorcycle with an extended frame commit a traffic infraction. The driver eluded Officer McCall’s attempt to stop the motorcycle. A few weeks later, Officer David Rhodes of the same department saw an orange and black motorcycle traveling well over the speed limit, but the driver got away from him, too. The officers compared notes and concluded that the two incidents involved the same motorcyclist.

Upon further investigation, the officers learned that the motorcycle likely was stolen and in the possession of petitioner Ryan Collins. After discovering photographs on Collins’ Facebook profile that featured an orange and black motorcycle parked at the top of the driveway of a house, Officer Rhodes tracked down the address of the house, drove there, and parked on the street. It was later established that Collins’ girlfriend lived in the house and that Collins stayed there a few nights per week. 1

 From his parked position on the street, Officer Rhodes saw what appeared to be a motorcycle with an extended frame covered with a white tarp, parked at the same angle and in the same location on the driveway as in the Facebook [***7]  photograph. Officer Rhodes, who did not have a warrant, exited his car and walked toward the house. He stopped to take a photograph of the covered motorcycle from the sidewalk, and then walked onto the residential property and up to the top of the driveway to where the motorcycle was parked. In order “to investigate further,” App. 80, Officer Rhodes pulled off the tarp, revealing a motorcycle that looked like the one from the speeding incident. He then ran a search of the license plate and vehicle identification numbers, which confirmed that the motorcycle was  [**17]  stolen. After gathering this information, Officer Rhodes took a photograph of the uncovered motorcycle, put the tarp back on, left the property, and returned to his car to wait for Collins.

Shortly thereafter, Collins returned home. Officer Rhodes walked up to the front door of the house and knocked. Collins answered, agreed to speak with Officer Rhodes, and admitted that the motor [*1669]  cycle was his and that he had bought it without title. Officer Rhodes then arrested Collins.

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138 S. Ct. 1663 *; 201 L. Ed. 2d 9 **; 2018 U.S. LEXIS 3210 ***; 86 U.S.L.W. 4324; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 279; 2018 WL 2402551

RYAN AUSTIN COLLINS, Petitioner v. VIRGINIA

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by Collins v. Commonwealth, 2019 Va. LEXIS 36 (Va., Mar. 28, 2019)

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF VIRGINIA

Collins v. Commonwealth, 292 Va. 486, 790 S.E.2d 611, 2016 Va. LEXIS 124 (Sept. 15, 2016)

Disposition: 292 Va. 486, 790 S.E.2d 611, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

curtilage, motorcycle, exclusionary rule, automobile exception, driveway, parked, searched, the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, warrantless search, seizure, street, arrest, privacy, warrantless, intrusion, driver, supremacy clause, garage, front, seize, tarp, walk, federal common law, motor vehicle, contraband, suppress, vessels, stolen, of the Fourth Amendment

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Warrantless Searches, Vehicle Searches, Probable Cause, Expectation of Privacy, Vehicle Searches, Compartments, Plain View, Plain View Doctrine, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Warrantless Arrests