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Police Entry Onto Private Property Case Law In Delaware

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the Delaware Constitution protects people in their persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The basis for the Fourth Amendment is whether a person has a constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy in the object that is searched. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351, 19 L. Ed. 2d 576, 88 S. Ct. 507 (1967).

The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places.

The Fourth Amendment does not protect that which is knowingly exposed to the public. Id.

There is, therefore, no protection from that which is seen or observed from a public roadway.

Even an individual who has taken measures to restrict some views of his activities does not preclude an officer's observations from a public vantage point where he has a right to be and which renders the activities clearly visible. California v. Ciraolo, 476 US. 207, 214, 90 L. Ed. 2d 210, 106 S. Ct. 1809 (1986).

The Court in Ciraolo allowed surveillance, with the naked eye, from one thousand feet above the ground onto the defendant's property.

By statute, Delaware Law prohibits nonconsensual searches of persons or property unless statute or the Constitution of the United States authorizes such searches. 11 Del. C., § 2301. Title 7 Del. C., § 6024 permits, at reasonable times, entry onto private property to determine whether violations of the environmental laws have occurred.

That statuary authority entitled, Right of entry, states:

The Secretary, or his duly authorized designee, in regulating water pollution, air pollution, solid waste disposal or any other matter over which he has jurisdiction .... may enter, at reasonable times, upon any private or public property for the purpose of determining whether a violation exists.... upon given verbal notice, and after presenting identification to the owner, occupant, custodian or agent of said property.

See also U.S. v. Evans, U.S. 7th Ct. App., 27 F.3d 1219 (1994) Once the DNREC officers legally entered the premises, any evidence observed in plain view is admissible.

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