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One Person’s Trash – Another Person’s Evidence

Trash: No Expectation of Privacy
By Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr

Q: How do I keep my trash private?  I’m involved in a court suit and my trash disappeared before the trucks came and I don’t think that’s right.

A: Get a paper shredder.  Once trash is placed outside, there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy.

It’s not a pretty picture, but there have been high profile divorce cases in which one party grabbed the other party’s trash and sifted through looking for evidence which, if otherwise passing the rules of evidence, was admissible in a court of law.

In a California drug case, prosecutors went through a private citizen’s trash, found evidence of drugs, and, based on that obtained a search warrant which yielded marijuana and cocaine inside the home.  California courts dismissed the drug charges holding the warrantless search through the rubbish violated Constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures.

But, that’s not the law of the land.  The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the California courts.  The Supreme Court held that it was “common knowledge” that garbage placed at curbside is “readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops and other members of the public.”

© 2012 Eagle Tribune Corporation – this material first appeared in Derry News as “About the Law”


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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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