Sunday, March 27, 2005

~ law enforcement dumpster diving in Indiana ~

Just who owns the garbage at the curb is an issue in flux. In a prior posting I highlighted the U.S. Supreme Court and some state court opinions on the matter, showing that a few states contravene ("have a higher standard") the Federal cases. Add Indiana to that short list.

Indiana Law Blog reports on a recent (need I say, drug related) case, Patrick & Susan May Litchfield v. State of Indiana, in which the Indiana Supreme Court questioned whether the police had "articulable individualized grounds for suspicion that the Litchfields were involved in illegal activity" or were just tipped off by the DEA.

We hold that a search of trash recovered from the place where it is left for collection is permissible under the Indiana Constitution, but only if the investigating officials have an articulable basis justifying reasonable suspicion that the subjects of the search have engaged in violations of law that might reasonably lead to evidence in the trash. Read the decision

Apparently, if the police didn't see them put the drugs there, the police can't go snooping. Next, law enforcement may have to get a search warrant to go through the trash. This determination shouldn't affect civilian dumpster diving. Many an impoverished soul has found this to be a tried and true method for getting great furniture. The case is remanded to the trial court. Stay tuned for further clarification. Read an article

[Thanks to Sanford Glickman, Glickman Investigations, for bringing this to my attention.]

Some recent state decisions arguing there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash collected:

District of Columbia: CATHERINE DANAI, APPELLANT, v. CANAL SQUARE ASSOCIATES, APPELLEE, December 2, 2004, Decided
Ms. Danai filed a claim for invasion of privacy against Canal, alleging that Canal removed a discarded letter from her trash and used it against her in the possession lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Canal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court, and hold that Ms. Danai had no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash collected from her office and placed [*2] with other office trash in a locked community room under the control of property managers for ultimate disposal off-site.

Georgia: SCOTT v. THE STATE, November 1, 2004, Decided
Scott contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Specifically, he argues that the warrantless search and seizure of the garbage bags were illegal and a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because the bags were in garbage cans which were not at curbside but instead within the curtilage of his house. We disagree.