Click on the case titles to link to the full case decision.
California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207(1986)-The Fourth Amendment simply does not require police traveling in the public airways at 1000 feet in a fixed wing aircraft to obtain a warrant in order to observe what is visible to the naked eye. In this case the police flew over Ciraolo’s property to take pictures of marijuana growing in the curtilage of his residence.
U.S. v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987)-Extent-of-curtilage questions should be resolved with particular reference to the following four factors, at least to the extent that they bear upon whether the area claimed to be curtilage is so intimately tied to the home itself that it should be placed under the home's "umbrella" of protection: (1) the proximity of the area to the home; (2) whether the area is within an enclosure surrounding the home; (3) the nature and uses to which the area is put; and (4) the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by passersby.
California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988)-The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of trash left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.
Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989)-Police observation of the greenhouse in Riley's curtilage from a helicopter passing at an altitude of 400 feet did not violate an expectation of privacy.
US v. Hall, 47 F. 3d 1091 (11th Cir. 1995)-Curtilage does not apply to businesses, but businesses do have an expectation of privacy in areas where they take measures to keep the public out.
New Hampshire v. Pinkham, No. 95-068 (Supreme Court of New Hampshire 1996)-A police officer responded to a call of a drunk driver. The officer went to the defendant's home and observed the defendant sitting in his vehicle in the driveway. The vehicle was within 10 to 15 feet of the house. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire ruled that, as a matter of state law, there was an implied invitation for any member of the public to use the driveway as an access route to the house. The court noted that the view of the driveway from the road was not blocked by shrubbery or the house. In addition, entry into the driveway was not prohibited by a gate or "No Trespassing" signs. The court concluded that it was not necessary for the officer to obtain a search warrant before walking onto the driveway.
US v. Gorman, 104 F.3d 272 (9th Cir. 1996)-A search warrant for a residence does not have to specifically name the curtilage. The curtilage is a lesser area of privacy of the residence and is included in the scope of the search warrant.
Hardesty v. Hamburg Township, 461 F.3d 646 (6th Cir. 2006)- Officers conducting an investigation are permitted to walk around to the backyard entering the curtilage and attempt to contact a resident if no contact can be made at the front door. The Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits have all been faced with situations where police officers knocked on a front door and, upon not receiving an answer, proceeded to the back door. Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 520-21 (3d Cir.2003); United States v. Bradshaw, 490 F.2d 1097, 1100 (4th Cir.1974); United States v. Anderson, 552 F.2d 1296, 1300 (8th Cir.1977); United States v. Hammett, 236 F.3d 1054, 1060 (9th Cir.2001). All of these circuits held that a knock and talk can be extended to the back door or backyard under certain circumstances. The Ninth Circuit has stated that "an officer may, in good faith, move away from the front door when seeking to contact the occupants of a residence." Hammett, 236 F.3d at 1060. The Fourth Circuit has held that "the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit police, attempting to speak with a homeowner, from entering the backyard when circumstances indicate they might find him there." Alvarez v. Montgomery County, 147 F.3d 354, 356 (4th Cir.1998). The Third Circuit has held that "[w]here officers are pursuing a lawful objective, unconnected to any search for the fruits and instrumentalities of criminal activity, their entry into the curtilage after not receiving an answer at the front door might be reasonable as entry into the curtilage may provide the only practicable way of attempting to contact the resident." Marasco, 318 F.3d at 520.
Florida v. Jardines, No. 11–564 (2013)-The Court held that taking a K-9 onto the porch of the defendant's home to sniff for drugs inside is a search and requires consent or a search warrant. The officer entered into the curtilage for evidence gathering purposes in violation of the defendant's Constitutionally protected 4th Amendment rights. See US v. Thomas.
There is an implied license for that allows citizens to enter into the curtilage to: knock on the door, check the address that may be hard to see from the street, to leave mail, and etc. This implied license also extends to police officers. The license, however, does not allow officers to enter the curtilage to look for evidence without consent or warrant.
US v. Jackson, 12-4559 (4th Cir, 2013)-A trash can belonging to an apartment tenant was placed on the grassy area by the apartment. The area is a common area shared by all the tenants. Officers removed trash from the can without a warrant. The court held that the common area shared by tenants is not part of the curtilage of the defendant's apartment. The warrantless removal of the trash was lawful.
US v. Carloss, 13-7082 (10th Cir, 2016)-Carloss lived in a house that had posted "No Trespassing" signs in several locations around his house, including on the front door. Police disregarded the signs and did a knock-and-talk. They were investigating a report that Carloss had a machine gun in violation of his criminal conviction restrictions. Officers were able to obtain consent to enter the residence by Carloss. They asked for consent to search the residence, but were denied, and were asked to leave. While in the residence, the offficers saw drug paraphernalia and they got a search warrant. They searched the home and found multiple meth labs and weapons. Carloss was arrested.
Carloss appealed his conviction claiming that the officers discovered the paraphernalia after they violated the Fourth Amendment by disobeyed the "No Trespassing" signs and knocked on the door. The Court held that under the circumstances presented here, those “No Trespassing” signs would not have conveyed to an objective officer that he could not approach the house and knock on the front door seeking to have a consensual conversation with the occupants. Nor did the officers exceed the implied license to knock on the front door by knocking too long. Just the presence of a “No Trespassing” sign is not alone sufficient to convey to an objective officer, or member of the public, that he cannot go to the front door and knock. Such signs, by themselves, do not have the talismanic quality Carloss attributes to them.