Can the police legally go through your trash?


The police will go to any length in search of evidence, including looking through garbage bins. However, they must observe your Fourth Amendment rights that protect you from arbitrary searches and seizures. So, can the police comb through your trash looking for evidence to use against you in a court of law? The answer is fraught with legal technicalities, keeping in mind your constitutional rights.

It depends on the location of your trash

There is a legal concept known as a reasonable expectation of privacy. For instance, you expect to have some privacy in your vehicle or home. If the trash is in or around your private property, the police must follow due process before conducting a search. Such areas may include:

  • In your garage
  • On your person
  • Around your home
  • The trunk of your car

On the other hand, if you place your trash on the curb for pick up, the police can legally go through it and use the evidence obtained against you in court. Trash outside your house awaiting collection may be fair game because you’ve essentially disposed of it.

Was the evidence against you obtained legally?

Suppose the police violate your rights by conducting an illegal search. In such an instance, the evidence they obtain from the unlawful search may be inadmissible in court. As a result, it will not be used to arrive at a verdict. Your case is likely to conclude favorably should the court suppress crucial evidence.However, everything is not in black and white. The legal nuances can be somewhat confusing, especially to the untrained eye. Therefore, if you have doubts about the legality of evidence in your case, it is advisable to seek an informed assessment of your options and guidance on the way forward.

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