Expert Answers
martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curtilage is the area surrounding a residence.  In the Supreme Court case of United States v. Dunn, the court defined curtilage as the area around a residence that "harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life.''  This is really an important concept because  curtilage of is protected from unreasonable searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment.  Deciding curtilage is rather vague.  Courts would look at several factors in determining curtilage.  First is the distance from the residence.  The nearer to a residence, the more likely it would be considered curtilage.  Next, the area would more likely be considered curtilage if it was within an enclosure surrounding the residence.  How the area around the residence is used and the way the area is protected from observation from other people would also be taken into consideration in determining curtilage.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This word means something more or less like "surroundings" when you are referring to someone's home.  In other words, it refers to the area around your house -- the parts that you typically use in daily life.  The word can also be spelled "curtilage."

In legal terms (in the US) the term is important mostly because of the 4th Amendment.  That is the amendment that says your home can't be searched without a warrant.  The Supreme Court has ruled that this protection extends to your curtilage -- places like your garage or your shed or your barn if you live on a farm.