Curtilage includes the area immediately surrounding a dwelling, and it counts as part of the home for many legal purposes, including searches and many self-defense laws. When considering whether something is in a dwelling's curtilage, courts consider four factors:
- The proximity of the thing to the dwelling;
- Whether the thing is within an enclosure surrounding the home;
- What the thing is used for.
- What steps, if any, the resident took to protect the thing from observation/ access by people passing by.
The Supreme Court suggested these factors in the context of determining whether or not a barn was part of a house's curtilage. See United States v. Dunn (1987), 480 U.S. 294.
In the context of criminal procedure, courts generally call any part of the property surrounding a dwelling that is not part of the curtilage an 'open field.'