In. Court Restricts Police Trash Searches


Criminal investigators can’t root through garbage on mere hunches of finding evidence, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled yesterday. Justice Theodore Boehm set a higher legal standard in which police must offer specific, legitimate reasons for trash searches that include a reasonable expectation of turning up evidence, says the Indianapolis Star. “The police can no longer, out of curiosity, come out to see what’s in your trash,” Indianapolis defense attorney Robert Hammerle said. “We now require more of police officers than we do of raccoons.”

Hammerle said the court essentially recognized that most people put their trash in opaque bags because they continue to have some expectation of privacy even after trash has been placed at the curb. In the case at issue, state officers through the trash of a couple whose names had been obtained from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA had the names from records subpoenaed from companies advertising in High Times, a magazine for marijuana growers. Two searches yielded burnt rolling papers and marijuana plant stems. That led to a search warrant that turned up 51 marijuana plants growing on the couple’s deck. “We think it is not reasonable for law enforcement to search indiscriminately through people’s trash,” Boehm wrote.


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