Can police go through your trash without permission?

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Police officers can be quite deceptive and sneaky when trying to build a case against someone. They typically have the legal right to lie to someone’s face about many different factors during an investigation. They can also sometimes trick people into waving their civil rights to conduct searches or interrogations that otherwise it wouldn’t have occurred. 

Sometimes, officers take things too far. If police went through your personal property, such as your trash bins or recycling, without your permission, the evidence they gathered there could easily have contributed to a conviction. Did they break the rules by going through your trash?

The location of the trash is critical in these cases

As someone accused of a crime in the United States of America, you have Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. That means that police can’t just go through your personal property without probable cause, permission or a warrant. 

However, the police may go through your trash without permission or a warrant in some situations. Once you place trash bags or receptacles on the curb for pickup, they become fair game. Police can search those items, just like someone in your neighborhood might repurpose something you intended to throw out. By setting it out for collection, you have effectively abandoned it and placed it in public view, making it permissible for police to go through it. 

However, if the trash bins were next to your garage, in your backyard or behind a fence, you could argue that they were part of your curtilage and therefore protected from search at that point. The same is true of trash bags that you have in storage units or your vehicle. Until you move to actually dispose of them, police generally won’t have the right to go through them. 

If you think that evidence secured from your trash may give you grounds for an appeal, discussing the situation with a lawyer can give you an idea about whether such an appeal is feasible.


RSS Feed

FindLaw Network