Can the police search my trash bin for evidence?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

A man’s home is his castle. As such, no one likes the idea of the government invading and turning their home upside down without their approval, let alone in pursuit of anything that might land them in trouble.

If you are a person of interest in a criminal matter, the police might do just that – search your property for evidence. However, with a few exceptions, the police cannot search and seize your property without a warrant. But what about the trash bin? Can the police search through your trash bin?

What the law says about searching a trash bin

For starters, the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. Basically, this means that unless the police have probable cause to search and seize your property, which has to be backed by a valid warrant, they do not have a right to do so. 

So how does this apply to your trash bin? Well, it may be far-fetched to think of trash as personal property. However, trash can contain sensitive material that, if retrieved and presented in court, might impact the outcome of your criminal case. 

Generally speaking, the validity of a “garbage search” depends on the location of the trash. Most often, evidence obtained from the trash that is held in the following locations will be admissible in court:

  • A trash bin that is set on the curb or sidewalk in front of your home
  • A trash bin that is kept in your yard, garage, hotel room or office 
  • A communal trash bin that is shared by tenants in an apartment block

Protecting your rights

If you are charged with a crime, you need to understand how you can protect your rights and defend yourself. This includes protecting yourself from illegal searches and seizures.