Collins v. Virginia

Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of Virginia

No. 16-1027. Argued January 9, 2018--Decided May 29, 2018

During the investigation of two traffic incidents involving an orange and black motorcycle with an extended frame, Officer David Rhodes learned that the motorcycle likely was stolen and in the possession of petitioner Ryan Collins. Officer Rhodes discovered photographs on Collins’ Facebook profile of an orange and black motorcycle parked in the driveway of a house, drove to the house, and parked on the street. From there, he could see what appeared to be the motorcycle under a white tarp parked in the same location as the motorcycle in the photograph. Without a search warrant, Office Rhodes walked to the top of the driveway, removed the tarp, confirmed that the motorcycle was stolen by running the license plate and vehicle identification numbers, took a photograph of the uncovered motorcycle, replaced the tarp, and returned to his car to wait for Collins. When Collins returned, Officer Rhodes arrested him. The trial court denied Collins’ motion to suppress the evidence on the ground that Officer Rhodes violated the Fourth Amendment when he trespassed on the house’s curtilage to conduct a search, and Collins was convicted of receiving stolen property. The Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed. The State Supreme Court also affirmed, holding that the warrantless search was justified under the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception.

Held: The automobile exception does not permit the warrantless entry of a home or its curtilage in order to search a vehicle therein. Pp. 3–14.

(a) This case arises at the intersection of two components of the Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence: the automobile exception to the warrant requirement and the protection extended to the curtilage of a home. In announcing each of the automobile exception’s justifications—i.e., the “ready mobility of the automobile” and “the pervasive regulation of vehicles capable of traveling on the public highways,” California v. Carney, 471 U. S. 386, 390, 392—the Court emphasized that the rationales applied only to automobiles and not to houses, and therefore supported their different treatment as a constitutional matter. When these justifications are present, officers may search an automobile without a warrant so long as they have probable cause. Curtilage—“the area ‘immediately surrounding and associated with the home’ ”—is considered “ ‘part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.’ ” Florida v. Jardines, 569 U. S. 1, 6. Thus, when an officer physically intrudes on the curtilage to gather evidence, a Fourth Amendment search has occurred and is presumptively unreasonable absent a warrant. Pp. 3–6.

(b) As an initial matter, the part of the driveway where Collins’ motorcycle was parked and subsequently searched is curtilage. When Officer Rhodes searched the motorcycle, it was parked inside a partially enclosed top portion of the driveway that abuts the house. Just like the front porch, side garden, or area “outside the front window,” that enclosure constitutes “an area adjacent to the home and ‘to which the activity of home life extends.’ ” Jardines, 569 U. S., at 6, 7.

Because the scope of the automobile exception extends no further than the automobile itself, it did not justify Officer Rhodes’ invasion of the curtilage. Nothing in this Court’s case law suggests that the automobile exception gives an officer the right to enter a home or its curtilage to access a vehicle without a warrant. Such an expansion would both undervalue the core Fourth Amendment protection afforded to the home and its curtilage and “ ‘untether’ ” the exception “ ‘from the justifications underlying’ ” it. Riley v. California, 573 U. S. ___, ___. This Court has similarly declined to expand the scope of other exceptions to the warrant requirement. Thus, just as an officer must have a lawful right of access to any contraband he discovers in plain view in order to seize it without a warrant—see Horton v. California, 496 U. S. 128, 136–137—and just as an officer must have a lawful right of access in order to arrest a person in his home—see Payton v. New York, 445 U. S. 573, 587–590—so, too, an officer must have a lawful right of access to a vehicle in order to search it pursuant to the automobile exception. To allow otherwise would unmoor the exception from its justifications, render hollow the core Fourth Amendment protection the Constitution extends to the house and its curtilage, and transform what was meant to be an exception into a tool with far broader application. Pp. 6–11.

(c) Contrary to Virginia’s claim, the automobile exception is not a categorical one that permits the warrantless search of a vehicle anytime, anywhere, including in a home or curtilage. Scher v. United States, 305 U. S. 251; Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U. S. 938, distinguished. Also unpersuasive is Virginia’s proposed bright line rule for an automobile exception that would not permit warrantless entryonly of the house itself or another fixed structure, e.g., a garage, inside the curtilage. This Court has long been clear that curtilage is afforded constitutional protection, and creating a carveout for certain types of curtilage seems more likely to create confusion than does uniform application of the Court’s doctrine. Virginia’s rule also rests on a mistaken premise, for the ability to observe inside curtilage from a lawful vantage point is not the same as the right to enter curtilage without a warrant to search for information not otherwise accessible. Finally, Virginia’s rule automatically would grant constitutional rights to those persons with the financial means to afford residences with garages but deprive those persons without such resources of any individualized consideration as to whether the areas in which they store their vehicles qualify as curtilage. Pp. 11–14.

292 Va. 486, 790 S. E. 2d 611, reversed and remanded.

Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Lagos v. United States

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit

No. 16-1519. Argued April 18, 2018--Decided May 29, 2018

Petitioner Sergio Fernando Lagos was convicted of using a company he controlled to defraud a lender of tens of millions of dollars. After the fraudulent scheme came to light and Lagos’ company went bankrupt, the lender conducted a private investigation of Lagos’ fraud and participated as a party in the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. Between the private investigation and the bankruptcy proceedings, the lender spent nearly $5 million in legal, accounting, and consulting fees related to the fraud. After Lagos pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges, the District Court ordered him to pay restitution to the lender for those fees. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that such restitution was required by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, which requires defendants convicted of certain federal offenses, including wire fraud, to, among other things, “reimburse the victim for lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense,” 18 U. S. C. 3663A(b)(4).


1. The words “investigation” and “proceedings” in subsection (b)(4) of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act are limited to government investigations and criminal proceedings and do not include private investigations and civil or bankruptcy proceedings. The word “investigation” appears in the phrase “the investigation or prosecution.” Because the word “prosecution” must refer to a government’s criminal prosecution, this suggests that the word “investigation” refers to a government’s criminal investigation. Similar reasoning suggests that the immediately following reference to “proceedings” refers to criminal proceedings. Furthermore, the statute refers to the victim’s “participation” in the “investigation,” and “attendance” at “proceedings,” which would be odd ways to describe a victim’s role in its own private investigation and as a party in noncriminal court proceedings, but which are natural ways to describe a victim’s role in a government’s investigation and in the criminal proceedings that a government conducts.

Moreover, the statute lists three specific items that must be reimbursed: lost income, child care expenses, and transportation expenses. These are precisely the kind of expenses that a victim is likely to incur when missing work and traveling to participate in a government investigation or to attend criminal proceedings. In contrast, the statute says nothing about the kinds of expenses a victim would often incur during private investigations or noncriminal proceedings, namely, the costs of hiring private investigators, attorneys, or accountants. This supports the Court’s more limited reading of the statute.

A broad reading would also require district courts to resolve difficult, fact-intensive disputes about whether particular expenses “incurred during” participation in a private investigation were in fact “necessary,” and about whether proceedings such as a licensing proceeding or a Consumer Products Safety Commission hearing were sufficiently “related to the offense.” The Court’s narrower interpretation avoids such controversies, which are often irrelevant to the victim because over 90% of criminal restitution is never collected.

The Court’s interpretation means that some victims will not receive restitution for all of their losses from a crime, but that is consistent with the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act’s enumeration of limited categories of covered expenses, in contrast with the broader language that other federal restitution statutes use, see, e.g., 18 U. S. C. 2248(b), 2259(b), 2264(b), 2327(b). Pp. 3–7.

2. That the victim shared the results of its private investigation with the Government does not make the costs of conducting the private investigation “necessary . . . other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation . . . of the offense.” 3663A(b)(4). That language does not cover the costs of a private investigation that the victim chooses on its own to conduct, which are not “incurred during” participation in a government’s investigation. Pp. 7–8.

864 F. 3d 320, reversed and remanded.

Breyer, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.