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In Law, What Is a Curtilage?

Curtilage is an important concept in the discussion of privacy, and it refers to the area surrounding the domicile that is not necessarily covered by a roof but is within an enclosing. On the other hand, this definition is general and the specifics may vary from state to state and country to country. This is also an extremely important concept with regards to issues of burglary and self-defense.

The definition of a curtilage provides 2 conditions before an area can be considered a curtilage. The first condition involves an enclosure in some way, a fence or a gate. The area must be enclosed in order to delineate one property from the next. The area within this enclosure must be used for domestic activities in order for it to be considered an extension of a domicile. The second condition requires that the area enclosed is immediately adjoining the dwelling. There is continuity between the dwelling and the area. Sheds, guesthouses, and the like, are considered in the second condition as they are adjacent to the home and are an extension of domestic activities.

Since curtilage is considered to be an extension of the dwelling, it is subject to the same search and seizure laws a dwelling is. Therefore, a warrant is necessary before a law enforcement officer can conduct a search and seizure. The establishment of a curtilage is to prevent illegal search and seizures pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. As such, the word “home” is interpreted in a court of law to include the curtilage.

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