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Can the police look in your trash? 

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The police are not allowed to violate your privacy on your personal property. This is why they cannot come into your home and look around without your permission or a warrant, at least in cases where it’s not an emergency. Even if they believe that the law has been broken, you are still a private citizen, and you expect that privacy to be upheld within your home.

There are, of course, many gray areas. One of them is the trash. Police may believe that you’ve thrown away evidence of criminal activity, such as financial statements or drug paraphernalia. If they believe this, can they look in your trash or do you still have your expectation of privacy?

It is fair game once it leaves your property

The key isn’t whether or not you’ve thrown away the item, but where it is located. If you throw it in the trash but it’s still on your property – such as in your garage or in your home – the police have no right to examine it. Your expectation of privacy is still upheld.

However, once the trash leaves your property, then it is fair game and they can look at it if they would like. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been taken to a dump or landfill. Simply rolling your trash bin out to the curb can be enough, and officers may come to take the trash away or look through it on the site. That would still be legal in most cases.

You can see that it’s important for evidence to be gathered correctly by the authorities. Those who are facing charges need to know all of their legal options, especially if they believe their right to privacy has been violated.