CA3: Entry onto ptfs’ rural land to serve a small claims complaint was over open fields

Defendant is a deputy sheriff who had a summons and complaint for a small claims case. He came by plaintiffs’ rural property three prior times to serve it. They lived on 75 acres and the house and a law office were not visible from the road. There was a locked gate and a no trespassing sign. He left a card in the mailbox. When he came back the card was still there. On the fourth trip he walked around the gate and walked up to the buildings. He found the female plaintiff and served her. They sued for a Fourth Amendment violation by the entry, and the court concludes the entry was over open fields to the house under the Dunn factors. Stone v. Martin, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 23640 (3d Cir. Nov. 22, 2017).

However, given this case’s factual similarities to Oliver and Dunn and because three of the four Dunn factors fail to support the Stones, we hold that Dunlap walked only through open fields. Because “the government’s intrusion upon the open fields is not one of those ‘unreasonable searches’ proscribed by the text of the Fourth Amendment,” Oliver, 466 U.S. at 177, his trespass onto the Stones’ property did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The District Court properly dismissed their Fourth Amendment claims on summary judgment.

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