Collins v. Virginia

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: September 28, 2017
  • Case #: 16-1027
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 790 S.E.2d 611 (Va. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement permits a police officer's warrantless entry onto private property to search a vehicle parked in close proximity to a dwelling.

Petitioner evaded police officers twice, while operating a motorcycle at high speeds. Officers accessed Petitioner's Facebook page, which lead them to Petitioner's residence. Petitioner's motorcycle was mostly hidden under a tarp in Petitioner’s driveway, about a car's length from the residence. An officer walked up to the tarp without permission and ran the license plate and VIN number. The officer was alerted that the motorcycle was stolen property and Petitioner was arrested, and subsequently indicted, for possession of stolen property. Petitioner moved to suppress evidence connecting Petitioner to the motorcycle, arguing that the Fourth Amendment automobile exception to obtaining a warrant did not apply because the motorcycle was located within Petitioner’s private property. Petitioner argued that the automobile exception applies when “a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband.” The trial court did not address that argument and found probable cause for the search. The Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the trial court's conviction. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Petitioner argues the Supreme Court of Virginia improperly expanded the automobile exception to include warrantless searches of vehicles on private property.

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