You have heard me mention in the past that “your home is your castle”. This is one of the foundational principles of living in a constitutional republic. But, what about garages and other attachments to a home?
The Georgia Court of Appeals held last month that the Fourth Amendment did not allow the arrest of a Cobb County woman on DUI charges in her garage, even though an off-duty officer had seen the woman’s car driving erratically on the street and the arresting officer thought she was impaired in the garage.
In October 2011, a Marietta police officer called the Cobb County Police Department to report his suspicion that Charlotte Zeigler Corey was DUI.
An officer arrived at Corey’s home as she was exiting her vehicle to close the garage door and walk in her back door.
The officer entered the garage without permission and questioned her about her alleged impaired driving. The officer also noticed she had driven her car into the wall of the garage.
The officer also said that she exhibited other indicators of impairment. She refused to take an alco-sensor test and alleged failed field sobriety tests. Corey acknowledged having consumed a glass of wine.
The officer arrested Corey for DUI and other traffic related offenses.
The appellate court found there might be disputes about whether an attached garage is always considered part of a house under the Fourth Amendment. However, in this case it was either part of the home or “the protected part of its curtilage,” and therefore protected. There were no exigent circumstances that would have allowed the officer to come into the garage uninvited.
This was because “The limited but undisputed evidence in the record shows that Corey used her garage for parking and for personally entering the living quarters of the home. The evidence shows that on this occasion, she intended to close the garage door as a part of entering the home. There is no evidence that Corey routinely left her garage door open or had left it open that day when she was out,” the Court wrote.
The result of this decision was the dismissal of the case. As a firm advocate of the protections afforded to us by the 4th Amendment, I am very pleased with this decision.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all garages may be protected like this one in Cobb County, Georgia. The opinion by the Court made a very clear statement regarding the type of garages and other parts of a home would be constitutionally protected.
The Court determined, “Whether the public usually enters a home through the garage is a key factor in whether the attached garage space is covered by the Fourth Amendment. Had Corey’s garage been a common entryway for the public, any “visitor, including a police officer, may enter the curtilage of a house when that visitor takes the same route as would any guest, deliveryman, postal employee or other caller.”
Bottom line: If the garage is a private entryway, it is part of your castle. If it is public, it is not.