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Can the police collect evidence from a trash can? 

On Behalf of | May 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense

When the police are investigating you for a crime, they will search for evidence to use against you in court. Armed with a warrant, they can comb through every corner of your property in search of anything incriminating. Without a warrant, they can’t intrude at all.

But, what about your trash?  Can they search the trash cans, too? Do they need a warrant for that? Here’s what you should know:

Generally speaking, the police may search your trash cans at will

Evidence from your trash is “fair game” for the police, although that is subject to some restrictions based on where the trash was located at the time.

Broadly, evidence retrieved from the trash bin may be used against you under the following circumstances:

  • When the trash bin was within your property (on the sidewalk or directly in front of your home) at the time of the search
  • When the bin was in your garage or office
  • When the trash bin was communal (shared with other tenants in your apartment block)

When the police had either a warrant or your consent to search the property, then the location of the trash bin at the time of the search may have no implication on the validity of the evidence retrieved.

Can you challenge evidence that is retrieved from a trash can?

If you are charged with a crime, one of the strategies you may explore is fighting to exclude some evidence from your case. For instance, if the process of retrieving evidence from your trash bin violated your rights, then you may petition the court to exclude it from your case. 

Learning more about police restrictions during a search and seizure can help you safeguard your rights and fight back against a criminal charge. Experienced legal guidance is best.


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