Curtilage to a Dwelling or Residence

Search of a Yard, Porch or Other Curtilage

An individual possesses a constitutional right that he will remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. In this regard, there is little question that this protection extends not only to Protected Property but also those areas contiguous thereto, commonly referred to as “curtilage”. Both the New Jersey and US Constitution afford privacy protection to curtilage but do not prohibit searches in “open fields”. If you think you may have an issue concerning police conducting an improper search of your yard or some other curtilage to your house, apartment or your business, the lawyers at our firm are here to help. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall handle Search and Seizure cases statewide, including Bergen County, Passaic County, Essex County, Morris County, Hudson County, Union County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Ocean County and Monmouth County, NJ. An attorney is available now at 1-877-450-8301.

What is “Curtilage” under New Jersey Law

The protection under the law extends to areas where an individual has a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. Those areas that society would view as falling within a legitimate zone of privacy, cannot be searched without a warrant absent application of an Exception to the Warrant Requirement. Curtilage is defined as the property intimate to a person’s home and includes areas like a yard or porch area. NJ Courts have set forth four (4) factors to be considered in determining whether property represents curtilage to a residence and they are:

  1. Proximity of the area to the dwelling;
  2. Whether the area is enclosed or covered by some fixed extension from the home (e.g. porch);
  3. Nature of the use of the property and whether that use is tied to activities of home life; and
  4. Existence of any steps taken to block the area from observation (e.g. fencing or other enclosure to exclude public view or access).

It should be noted, however, that while curtilage is protected by the 4th Amendment, incriminatory evidence in this area may be sized when it is in Plain View from an area to which police are lawfully present.

If you require our assistance on any Search and Seizure issue, the attorneys at our office are prepared to help you. Give us a call anytime 24/7 as our lawyers are always available for initial consultations.