Curtilage Law & Legal Definition

Curtilage is the immediate, enclosed area surrounding a house or dwelling. The U.S. Supreme Court noted in United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987), that curtilage is the area immediately surrounding a residence that "harbors the `intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life.'' Curtilage, like a house, is protected under the fourth amendment from "unreasonable searches and seizures.''

Determining the boundaries of curtilage is imprecise and subject to controversy. Four of the factors used to dtermine whether to classify the area as curtilage include:

1) The distance from the home to the place claimed to be curtilage (the closer the home is, the more likely to be curtilage);

2) Whether the area claimed to be curtilage is included within an enclosure surrounding the home;

3) The nature of use to which the area is put (if it is the site of domestic activities, it is more likely to be a part of the curtilage); and

4) The steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by (shielding from public view will favor finding the portion is curtilage).