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Can officers search through your trash?

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2023 | Criminal Defense

When the police want to conduct a search and gather evidence, they need to be aware of where the public has an expectation of privacy. For instance, if they want to search someone’s home or car, they may need to either get a warrant or get that person’s consent. There are some situations where they can perform a search if it’s an emergency, or if there is evidence in plain sight, but there are restrictions on when the search can happen.

But what about your trash? If you throw something away, do you still have an expectation of privacy? Or can the police conduct a search whenever they want because you’ve already discarded the item?

Is it on your property?

The big question to ask is simply where the trash is located at the time. If it is still on your property, then you still have an expectation of privacy. If you put something in the bin in your backyard, for instance, the police cannot sneak into your yard at night and remove evidence from the bin.

However, once you roll that bin out to the curb, it is now on public property. Your expectation of privacy is gone, just as it would be if the trash had already been taken to the dump or the landfill. The police can conduct a search any time that they want, and this is a place where they will sometimes seek evidence. That evidence may then give them justification for a warrant so that they can conduct a more extensive search of your home and other private property.

It’s very important for the police to gather evidence correctly and not to violate anyone’s rights. But if you’re facing charges and you believe that they may have broken these regulations, then it’s critical that you know what defense options you have.