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Can a police detective look in your trash?

You have a right to privacy in your home, though the police can investigate things that are in plain sight. In other words, if you have illegal firearms in a closet in the kitchen, they can’t simply come in without a warrant and begin looking around, but they could gather evidence if those firearms were left outside, on the hood of a car, or somewhere else where you could reasonably expect that someone would see them. 

But what about your trash? The items you throw away were likely things you expected to stay private inside your home, and they are hidden in your bin even after you roll it out to the road for pickup. So can the police come and look for evidence in your trash, or do you still get to expect that these items will stay private until they reach the local landfill?

You have no privacy in a trach container

Generally speaking, your right to privacy ends if you throw something away in a location where the police can reach it without entering your property. A trash bin in your garage is protected, for instance, but one that is sitting by the road is not. The police do use trash as a way to gather evidence, and it can be used in court. 

That said, the idea of getting DNA from the trash is controversial and has been challenged as unconstitutional. This is an important statement since DNA could be incredibly easy to obtain from hair, paper cups, napkins, bandaids and much more. So there may be limits, even in this area. 

If you’re facing charges and you believe the evidence against you was illegally gathered, it’s critical that you know what legal options you have. 

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