When can police look in your trash? 

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Police officers will often look through discarded items to search for evidence. Maybe they believe someone is distributing drugs, for example. They could look in that person‘s trash to seek out drug paraphernalia and supplies, such as discarded baggies used for selling illegal substances.

But when are the police actually allowed to look in your trash? You do have an expectation of privacy on your property. Does this extend to things that you throw away?

When they leave your property

As a general rule, the police only have the right to look in your trash once it leaves your property and that expectation of privacy is lifted. Without a warrant, the police still can’t enter your property without your consent. If they went into your garage while you were asleep in the house, for example, they would clearly be violating your rights even if they said they were just looking through your trash.

But once you roll the bin out to be picked up or take the trash to the dump yourself, then the police have the right to look through any of these discarded items. In theory, the police could just wait for you to roll the bin out to the curb the night before, and then they could come to collect whatever they want before it gets picked up in the morning. This would not violate your privacy rights because you intentionally gave those up when you threw the items away and moved them to the curb.

This can get a bit complex, especially if you believe that the police illegally gathered evidence. Take the time to look into all of your defense options.



FindLaw Network