CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

McAllister on Tiny Homes and the Fourth Amendment

Marc Chase McAllister (Texas State University, San Marcos - College of Business Administration) has posted Go Tiny or Go Home: How Living Tiny May Inadvertently Reduce Privacy Rights in the Home (South Carolina Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Seeking to live a more minimal lifestyle, people across America are choosing to leave their traditional homes and move into “tiny homes” averaging about 200 square feet of living space. As with many fads, this new form of dwelling has brought numerous legal obstacles, including finding a location where tiny homes are permitted by local zoning laws and designing the structure to comply with local building codes. As municipalities re-examine their housing regulations, another issue looms on the horizon, namely, what Fourth Amendment rights the occupants of tiny homes enjoy. This article explores that issue. 

This article specifically considers whether the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement would apply to tiny homes constructed on trailers, or whether instead such structures could be searched without a warrant under the automobile exception, an issue no court has addressed.
Because a tiny home has characteristics of a motor home, recreational vehicle, or house trailer, this article examines Fourth Amendment case law pertaining to those structures. Although most courts would likely apply the framework set forth in California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386 (1985) – a case-specific analysis focused on the structure’s “inherent mobility” and whether it serves a residential or vehicular function – this article proposes that the tiny home on wheels be afforded the same warrant protections traditional homes enjoy. This article will likely be the first scholarly article to address this issue, and will provide a framework of analysis for litigants and courts as these cases arise.

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