AMA and NRA Working Together to Protect Your Curtilage!

John Burns
by John Burns

Last week we reported on Collins v Virginia making its way to the Supreme Court, a Fourth Amendment case challenging a police officer’s right to lift a bike cover to look at a (stolen) motorcycle in a private driveway without a warrant. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard both sides’ arguments: The Petitioner is Matthew Fitzgerald on behalf of Ryan Collins, who was convicted of his charges and has been in jail for the last three years. The Respondent is the Attorney General of Virginia.

What’s interesting is the list of Other parties involved in the case, which you can find here at All these are weighing in on the Collins side of the case.

Anand Agneshwar
Counsel of Record
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
250 W. 55th St.
New York, NY 10019

Party name: The Rutherford Institute
Douglas Harry Hallward-Driemeier
Counsel of Record
Ropes & Gray, LLP
2099 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006-6807

Party name: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
William Robert Peterson
Counsel of Record
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
1000 Louisiana Street
Suite 4000
Houston, TX 77002

Party name: American Motorcyclist Association
Andrew John Pincus
Counsel of Record
Mayer Brown LLP
1999 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Party name: The Cato Institute
Anthony Brian Sanders
Counsel of Record
Institute for Justice
520 Nicollet Mall
Suite 550
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Party name: Institute for Justice
Leslie A. Shoebotham
Counsel of Record
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
7214 St. Charles Avenue
Campus Box 901
New Orleans, LA 70118

Party name: Fourth Amendment Scholars
Mahesha Padmanabhan Subbaraman
Counsel of Record
Subbaraman PLLC
222 S. 9th St., Suite 1600
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Party name: Restore the Fourth, Inc.
David H. Thompson
Counsel of Record
Cooper & Kirk, PLLC
1523 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Party name: The National Rifle Association Freedom Action Foundation
Herbert William Titus
Counsel of Record
2400 Carolina Road
Cheasapeake, VA 23322

Party name: Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, et al.
Robert Jeffrey OlsonWilliam J. Olson PC
370 Maple Avenue West, Suite 4
Vienna, VA 22180-5615

Party name: United States Justice Foundation, et al.

Quite a who’s who of heavy hitters, including our own American Motorcyclist Association, right along with the National Rifle Association. Apparently a lot of people are concerned with keeping themselves safe from unlawful searches, even if they’re leaving their stolen goods in partial view of the street.

Part of the AMA’s amicus brief has this to say:

Removal of a motorcycle’s cover without the owner’s permission would be, at the least, highly suspicious. It would almost certainly be understood as a prelude to theft (either of the motorcycle itself or personal possessions stored on the motorcycle) or vandalism.

The cover on a motorcycle can thus be understood as the rough equivalent of the top of a convertible. Even when the cover (or car) is unlocked, its removal still intrudes upon the reasonable expectations of privacy of the vehicle’s owner.

Motorcycles should receive no less protection from unreasonable searches than other vehicles. When the police removed the cover from Petitioners’ motorcycle, a search occurred. And as Petitioner contends, because that search occurred without a warrant and in the curtilage of a home, the search violated the Fourth Amendment.

Amicus and its members urge this Court to hold that motorcyclists’ protections against unreasonable searches and seizures should not be limited based on the type of vehicle at issue.

CONCLUSION Amicus expresses no opinion regarding petitioner’s ultimate guilt or innocence. Motorcycle theft is a serious crime that warrants serious punishment, but motorcycles should not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia, which fails to respect these rights, should be reversed.

I didn’t read what the NRA had to say, but you can read that and plenty more here.

SCOTUS heard the arguments yesterday, and Petitioner Counsel Fitzgerald tells MO he’s not expecting a decision until sometime this Spring. In the meantime, we got an excellent new word to use, “curtilage.” That would be “the area immediately surrounding a house, including any closely associated buildings and structures.”

John Burns
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