SCOTUS Hears Virginia Case Disputing Warrantless Motorcycle Search

Posted: Updated: Jan 08, 2018 10:21 PM
U.S. Supreme Court (FILE IMAGE) U.S. Supreme Court (FILE IMAGE)

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether police have the right to go on private property without a warrant to search a vehicle.

Justices heard arguments Tuesday in the 2013 Albemarle County case from the legal team for Ryan Collins.

The case began with high-speed police chase of a distinctive orange and black Suzuki motorcycle. An officer later went on private property and lifted up a tarp to view the license plate.

Police arrested Ryan Collins and a jury convicted him in 2016 for receiving stolen property, but Collins says the police violated his rights.

The case tests the boundaries of an exception to the Fourth Amendment's requirement that police obtain a warrant before searching a person, their home, papers or personal effects.

The court will decide if the officer's search is covered by the automobile exception that allows police to search vehicles without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe they contain evidence of a crime.

"It's an interesting intersection of two very different doctrines. The first doctrine is your home is your castle. You can't come into the home without a warrant.  You can't search the home without a warrant. Second is cars are mobile. You can always search a car based on suspicion without a warrant," NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook said.

If the Supreme Court justices overrule the lower court's decision, Collins would avoid serving jail time.

Lawyers for Collins say they expect a decision on the case by June 2018.

 The Associated Press contributed to this piece.