As a general rule, law enforcement cannot enter and search your home without a warrant or under exceptional circumstances like plain view. This is enshrined in the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
But what about your trash bin? Say the police want to use the evidence they retrieved from the trash bin, can you challenge this? Or, can the police go through your trash bin in search of evidence?
Evidence found in the trash
Evidence from the trash bin is “fair game” when it is procedurally retrieved. However, evidence from the trash bin can be subject to a number of restrictions based on its physical location at the time of the search.
Broadly speaking, the police can retrieve and use evidence from the trash bin against you under the following circumstances:
- When the trash was within your property at the time of the search. This may include on your lawn, yard or sidewalk.
- When the trash bin is communal such as one that you share with other tenants
- When the bin was in your office or garage
If the police had a valid warrant, your consent or if the evidence in question was in plain view, then the location of the trash may have no bearing on the validity of recovered evidence.
So, what options do you have when the police want to use evidence from the trash bin against you?
If you are facing criminal charges, one of the strategies you can explore is fighting to have some evidence excluded from your case. For instance, if the police violated your rights while retrieving evidence from the trash bin, then you may petition the court to exclude such evidence from your case. That said, understanding what the police can (and cannot do) during a search and seizure can help you protect your rights and fight the criminal charges you are facing.