Can the police look in your trash can?

The police need a warrant to search your house, or they need your consent to do so. Without it, even if they suspect they may find evidence in your house, they’re not allowed to enter. They have to show this reasonable suspicion to the judge and then be issued the warrant first. Otherwise, you have a right to privacy.

But what about the items that you throw away? Do you also have a right to privacy for the things that are placed in your trash? Or could the police come and look if they wanted to search your trash for evidence without your permission or a warrant?

Items that leave your home are fair game

Clearly, the police cannot look in your trash while still on your property, such as in your home or garage. But that changes once you roll the can out to the curb to be picked up. You lose your presumption of privacy at this point. That means that an officer could theoretically come to look through that trash can before it gets picked up by the truck the next morning, and they would not be violating your rights. If they found evidence while doing so, that may even be enough to get them the warrant that they want to perform a search on your house. This is why the police may decide to look in your trash in the first place.

Understanding your rights

It’s very important for the police to gather evidence properly and to take the right steps, and you need to understand all of your legal rights, especially if you believe they may have been violated.

Attorney Brad Hawley

Attorney Brad HawleyAttorney Brad Hawley possesses years of practical experience focused on bankruptcy, civil and criminal defense. He has prosecuted and defended clients in state court, and is a former enlisted member of the United States Army. Brad is driven by his desire to help people that have been hurt by the legal system, and is dedicated to fixing injustices he sees around him. [ Attorney Bio ]

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