Can The Police Take Your Trash Without A Warrant?
A recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision says, yes. When trash is put out to the curb or alley for collection there is no longer an expectation of privacy and it may be searched without a warrant.
In State v. McMurray, No. A12-2266, 2015 WL 1085000 (Minn. Mar. 11, 2015), law enforcement received a tip from a mandated reporter who believed a child’s parents (McMurray) were using illegal drugs in their home. An investigator and member of a Drug Task Force team learned that both of the McMurrays had prior controlled substance convictions. The officer contacted the commercial truck driver who collects the trash from the McMurray residence and made arrangements for the trash collector to gather the trash at the curb and turn it over to the officer.
The search of McMurray’s garbage yielded drug residue and paraphernalia. All of this information led to a search warrant of the McMurray’s residence, where more Methamphetamine was found. Subsequently, McMurray was charged and convicted of third-degree possession of a controlled substance.
McMurray argued that the warrantless search of his trash was in violation of Article I, Section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution, which provides,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.
Lower Court Decisions
The district court denied his motion. The court of appeals agreed, stating that “