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Curtilage: The Fourth Amendment in the Garden

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 59 Issue: 5 Dated: (May 1990) Pages: 26-30
J G Sauls
Date Published
5 pages
This analysis of search and seizure focuses on the legal standards used in defining the physical limits of curtilage, the area immediately surrounding a residence that is protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures.
In 1987 in United States v. Dunn the United States Supreme Court listed four factors that should be considered when determining the extent of a home's curtilage: 1) the distance from the home to the location, 2) whether the location is in an enclosure surrounding the home, 3) the nature of the use to which the location is put, and 4) the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by. Curtilage is relevant to law enforcement officers when they are contemplating observing an area from a lawful vantage point using a device to enhance their senses, when contemplating areas near a residence that are not public access areas, and when exercising a search warrant. They should obtain search warrants in cases in which it is not clear whether or not an area represents curtilage. Footnotes.