On SCOTUS’ docket: 4th Amendment search/seizure case, part 2

There is a degree of wiggle room — an exception, if you will — in the 4th Amendment’s requirement for police officers and other enforcement officials to secure a warrant prior to engaging in a search and potential seizure of criminal evidence.

We note that exception in our January 3 blog post, specifically as it applies to the notion of some expanded freedom for searches of motor vehicles.

Just how far can cops in California and elsewhere go in a warrantless search of a car or other vehicle when they argue that ultra-quick police action is necessary?

That is the central question that will be posed to justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in a case the tribunal will soon hear.

On the one hand, prosecutors in the matter argue that an officer had probable cause and a dire need to walk onto private property, uncover a motorcycle draped under the tarp and check its VIN number without having a warrant to do so. The officer subsequently arrested an individual for being in possession of stolen property.

The defendant argued for the suppression of all discovered evidence based on the officer’s unlawful intrusion onto the property and unreasonable search and seizure. He was ruled against in both a trial court proceeding and following appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court will now be asked to weigh in on an assessment of the material facts of the case. Importantly, justices will consider the defense argument that any alleged exception to a warrant requirement for automobiles is not applicable when police seek to intrude on property private.

The case is obviously important for a judicial determination of privacy rights and the long-sanctioned notion that a home and its surroundings merit enhanced constitutional protections against police action.

We will keep readers timely updated.

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