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Can the police search your yard without a warrant? Short Answer: It Depends.

Many individuals accused of crimes or DUI offenses in Metro Atlanta or Georgia are arrested at home or in their yard.  They commonly ask questions about Georgia law including can the police arrest me at home without a warrant?  The short answer is it depends.  Unless Georgia police are in hot pursuit or there are other exigent circumstances, the police generally are required to go to a magistrate and get a warrant either to search your house or property or for your arrest.

In terms of what the police can do in your yard, the curtilage, yard, or the land immediately surrounding and associated with a home, warrants the Fourth Amendment protections that attach to the home. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that the Fourth Amendment protects the curtilage of a house and that the extent of the curtilage is determined by factors that bear upon whether an individual reasonably may expect that the area in question should be treated as the home itself.

The Court identified the central component of this inquiry as whether the area harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life. Curtilage questions should be resolved with particular reference to four factors: the proximity of the area claimed to be curtilage to the home, whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home, the nature of the uses to which the area is put, and the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by.  The Supreme Court of Georgia has defined curtilage as “the yards and grounds of a particular address, its gardens, barns, and buildings.” Landers v. State, 250 Ga. 808, 809 (301 SE2d 633) (1983).  The issue must be determined on a case by case basis.

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