Can an officer dig through your garbage without a warrant?

Can an officer go through your trash can outside of your home without a valid search warrant?

And can they then use anything found as probable cause in order to obtain a search warrant of your premises?

Comments for Can an officer dig through your garbage without a warrant?

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Privacy Rights and Search Warrants
by: Gary V.

Your privacy rights are protected by law only if you have a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy.

So, if your garbage is on your personal and private property, with no incriminating items in plain view, an officer will need a search warrant to go through the trash.

However, once you dispose of your trash such as placing it in a communal dumpster or on the sidewalk, you would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, since anyone could go through the trash.

In this event, it does not constitute a "search" if officers were to go through the content and they would therefore not need a search warrant.

A law enforcement officer could argue that:

- Garbage is considered abandoned and not private once placed off private property, so there would be no invasion of privacy;

- The garbage was searched to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence;

- There is nothing illegal in taking trash from a public curb.

Should incriminating evidence be found, they could then use that as probable cause to convince a judge to issue search warrants for further searches.

If the courts were to rule the initial search of the trash illegal, then any evidence so gathered may not be used in court.

Having said all this, there are cases where a court ruled one way only to be overturned by a higher court, so ultimately every case would be decided on its merit.

Cops and Trash
by: Anonymous

Yes, once you set the trash out it is considered public property and the cops can do whatever they want with it.

Trash on Sidewalks
by: Anonymous

Fine and good but as cities do now it is illegal to pick up stuff off of sidewalks if you are a scrapper or salvager.

So why can cops do it? If it is illegal for citizens to do it it should be illegal for cops too.

by: Anonymous

Good post

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