D.N.M.: Warrantless entry onto def’s curtilage was reasonable

The warrantless entry onto defendant’s curtilage was reasonable. United States v. Luna, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166819 (D. N.M. Sept. 10, 2020):

In this case, the question of whether the deputies intruded on the curtilage of the home is essentially academic. Even assuming the carport was protected curtilage, the deputies’ actions were within the scope of the exception outlined in Schuck, and thus not unconstitutional. See Dunn 480 U.S. at 303 (concluding that the part of the property at issue was not protected curtilage, but even assuming it was, it did not automatically follow that law enforcement’s actions violated the Constitution). Defendant’s argument from the evidentiary hearing—that none of the officers parked within the enclosed area of the property, thus demonstrating that they knew it was a private area—is unpersuasive. The Court has already assumed, in Defendant’s favor, that the carport was protected curtilage. But this argument does nothing to negate the control of the on-point law in Shuck. The deputies here used the “normal route of access,” Shuck, 713 F.3d at 567, to approach the carport through an open gate, which is “‘no more than any private citizen might do.” Id. at 568 (quoting Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 8 (2013)). Accordingly, the Court concludes that under these circumstances, there was no “illegal entry into the curtilage of [Defendant’s] home.” (Doc. 24 at 9).

What is more, even assuming as true Defendant’s contention that the Chevy truck was not visible from the street, there is no doubt that deputies could have seen it from the “curtilage.” That an “area is within the curtilage does not itself bar all police observation.” Id. at 569. The Fourth Amendment does not require “law enforcement officers to shield their eyes” from those things they can readily observe from where they are lawfully permitted to be. Id. In this case, deputies were permitted to enter the property as they did. Their observations are not rendered unlawful even if made from the curtilage rather than the street.

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