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The fact that a Fourth Amendment violation occurred that a search or arrest was unreasonable does not necessarily mean that the exclusionary rule applies. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures but says nothing about suppressing evidence obtained in violation of this command.
This case was remanded from the United States Supreme Court. It involved an unsuccessful motion to suppress filed in the trial court by plaintiff, Ryan Austin Collins. Convicted of receipt of stolen property, plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals, claiming that the trial court should have excluded evidence obtained by police during a warrantless search of a motorcycle parked on a private residential driveway. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, holding that exigent circumstances justified the search. On further appeal to us, we affirmed on a different ground, holding that the automobile exception justified the warrantless search. On certiorari review, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision and held that 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. The Court limited its holding to the interplay between the automobile exception and the curtilage doctrine. "We leave for resolution on remand," the Court stated, "whether police officer's warrantless intrusion on the curtilage of plaintiff's house may have been reasonable on a different basis, such as the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement." On remand, the Commonwealth argues that two independent grounds support the trial court's decision to deny plaintiff's motion to suppress.
Did 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?
The court held that the Court of Appeals did not err by affirming plaintiff's conviction after the trial court had denied plaintiff’s motion to suppress. The court further held that the exclusionary rule does not apply under the facts of this case because, at the time of the search, a reasonably well-trained police officer would not have known that the automobile exception did not permit him to search a motorcycle located a few feet across the curtilage boundary of a private driveway. The court further held that a reasonably well-trained police officer cannot be expected to have known that all of these courts were wrong. Thus, if the court’s focus should be on the "'flagrancy of the police misconduct' at issue, the court saw no basis in this record for accusing police officer of flagrantly ignoring his constitutional duties. That he mistakenly did so particularly given our subsequent, equally mistaken, approval of his search does not justify excluding otherwise admissible, probative evidence. The court then affirmed the decision.