The police suspect that you’re involved in drug crimes, but they don’t have enough to get a warrant. They can’t come into your house, and you’ve turned them away when they’ve asked permission to enter. Then, one day, your camera records officers searching through your trash at night. Can they do that?
As an American citizen, privacy is important. You have a lot of rights. This is why you can ask police officers to leave your property, and they can’t force their way in. You have an expectation of privacy in your home.
When you put your trash at the curb, though, you lose that right to privacy. The reasoning is that the trash bin is no longer on your property at all. The city owns the street. Officers have every right to look in your trash, collect it or even bring it in to do a thorough search. They’re not violating your rights by doing that.
This doesn’t mean all trash is fair game. They can’t look through trash cans in your home or garage. They can’t always search you to see if you have discarded trash in your pockets. Your Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches still hold up. But you do need to know that a trash bin at the curb is no longer protected under the Fourth Amendment.
A search could bring about legal charges or an arrest. Perhaps the police found notes or receipts in your garbage that they say connect to drug sales. It’s important for you to know what rights and legal defense options you have moving forward.