Although the motorcycle in question may have been stolen, the AMA defended the motorcyclist’s rights against being subject to unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court agreed.
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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the warrantless police search of a motorcycle on private property was an “invasion of the sanctity” of the area around the house, even though authorities believe the motorcycle may have been stolen.
The 8-1 decision bolsters the protections for outside areas around a home when law enforcement agencies do not have a search warrant.
The American Motorcyclist Association filed an amicus brief in the case in November, stating that “there is nothing inherently suspicious-and no inherent justification for a search-in the use or ownership of a motorcycle.”
“This was a very important case, and it was not a surprise that the court ruled to protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizure,” said AMA Vice President of Government Relations Wayne Allard.
The case is No. 16-1027, Ryan Austin Collins v. Commonwealth of Virginia. The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that, because Collins’ vehicle was a motorcycle and not a car or truck, the officers who searched under the motorcycle cover did not need a warrant to do so.
The AMA brief argued that the judgment of the lower court should be reversed.
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman said in November that the Virginia case is an example of how motorcyclists’ rights can be threatened at all levels-and branches-of government.
The brief points out that a motorcycle cover is commonly used to protect motorcycles from the elements, to provide privacy and to prevent theft.
“By removing and looking beneath the cover of the motorcycle parked in the curtilage of the home, the police conducted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” the brief stated.
While the AMA’s brief expresses no opinion regarding the petitioner’s ultimate guilt or innocence of the alleged crime, it emphasizes that motorcycles should not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. The consequences of the erosion of motorcyclists’ protections under the Fourth Amendment would be severe.