Left to their own devices, government actors like the police can be quite invasive. It’s for this reason that the 4th Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Basically, no one likes the idea of the government compromising their freedom and property rights without their approval.
If you are a suspect or a person of interest in a criminal matter, however, the police will likely do everything in their power to obtain evidence that they can use against you. Part of this process may involve obtaining a warrant to search your property. How far can they go with this search? Can they search your trash bin for evidence?
What the law says about searching the trash bin
It can be ridiculous to think of trash as important personal property. However, it is as far as the law is concerned. This is because trash, just like any other part of the home, can contain sensitive materials that can influence the outcome of a case – either positively or negatively.
Generally speaking, there are three instances when evidence from the trash bin can be administered in court:
- When the trash bin was within your property (including the lawn, sidewalk or yard) at the time of the search but not within your dwelling
- When the trash bin was in your office or another space not housed in your dwelling
- When the trash bin is communal (one shared by multiple tenants)
Basically, if law enforcement has a warrant or probable cause for the search, then the location of the trash bin may have no bearing as far as the validity of the evidence retrieved from it is concerned unless it was still in your dwelling and the police had no search warrant for the dwelling itself.
Protecting your rights
Being a subject of a criminal investigation can be distressing. Fortunately, understanding your legal entitlements while under investigation can help you avoid mistakes that can hurt your case down the road.