When two Virginia police officers searched for the motorcyclist who had eluded them by driving away at speeds of up to 140 miles per hour, they probably would not have imagined that the case would end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. But that’s exactly what happened, and today the justices ruled that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they went to the motorcyclist’s home and found the distinctive orange-and-black Suzuki motorcycle that they’d been looking for under a tarp in the driveway.

In a near-unanimous decision authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court began by making clear that the driveway where Collins’ motorcycle was parked was part of the curtilage protected by the Fourth Amendment. The court then explained that the justification for the automobile exception doesn’t consider a resident’s privacy interest in his home and its curtilage at all; rather, the rationale rests on the twin ideas that cars can easily be moved and are subject to regulation simply by virtue of being on the roads. None of the Supreme Court’s cases, the court continued, indicates that the automobile exception allows a police officer to enter the home or its curtilage without a warrant to search a vehicle – if anything, the court has emphasized the need to treat “automobiles differently from houses.” “Given the centrality of the Fourth Amendment interest in the home and its curtilage and the disconnect between that interest and the justifications behind the automobile exception,” the court concluded, “we decline Virginia’s invitation to extend the automobile exception to permit a warrantless intrusion on a home or its curtilage.”