Are the police allowed to search in your trash? 

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2021 | criminal defense

Police officers want to search your home, and they’ve asked for your consent. You refused to give it, telling them to come back with a warrant, as is your legal right. 

The officers couldn’t get a warrant, though, and so they couldn’t carry out the search. Then you look at your doorbell camera footage one night and you see that there were officers going through your trash after you rolled the bin out to the road. They came after they knew you were asleep and clearly did this because they hoped to find evidence without searching your home. 

Is that legal? You didn’t give them permission to search your trash, either. Have they violated your rights? 

The expectation of privacy generally ends at your curb

The officers cannot search your home because you have an expectation of privacy. It takes a warrant — or your consent — to break that privacy. 

However, this expectation of privacy does not extend to your trash once it has left your home. When the items are in your house, even if you threw them away, you can still expect that no one will see them. Once you roll them out in the trash bin to the curb, though, you do not have that same expectation. This means that the police can look in your trash as much as they want, and they can gather evidence in this manner. 

How should you move forward?

This is why you want to be very careful with what you throw away. However, if you’re already facing charges based on something they found, you also need to know what legal defense options you have as your case moves forward.