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Can the police look through your trash?

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2020 | Criminal Defense

You know that you have a right to privacy in your own home. If the police do not have a warrant and you do not consent to a search of your home, they can’t come in and look for evidence. This applies when you’re home — they may knock and ask for consent just to see if they can get it — and when you’re gone. 

That said, there is one thing that they can do without asking for consent, and that’s to look through your trash. They could come by when you’re at work and take the entire contents of your trash bin away for further investigation, or they could simply poke through the contents outside of your home. 

Many people think that this feels like an invasion of their privacy. Yes, that bin is sitting by the street to get picked up by the city, but only because they chose to throw it away. Those are still their personal belongings that the police are digging through — at least for the moment. They think that violates their rights. 

However, the truth is that searching through the trash is legal. It has been established that you cannot expect the contents of the trash to be private and so the police have no obligation to ask you if they can look through it. 

They may do this, for instance, when looking for evidence of a financial crime, such as bank statements or checkbooks. They could also do it to look for items that appear connected to a drug crime. Anything you put in the trash is fair game. 

If you get arrested after they search your trash, then you must know what legal options you have. An experienced defense attorney can help you protect your rights.