31 December 2012

Trash Rips

Trash rip is the phrase used by law enforcement to sneak to the front of your residence in the middle of the night and take the garbage you have set out for pickup the following day. Once they take your garbage, they take it to a place of warmth and comfort, dump it out, and go through the trash for evidence of illegal substances such as marijuana seeds and stems. Marijuana seeds and stems are evidence that marijuana is to be found in the residence from whence the trash derived. The courts uniformly, to my knowledge, declare that a person has no expectation of privacy in the trash that he sets out on the street for collection. I am most certain that if one read enough cases dealing with the fourth amendment and the searching of garbage bags one would find rationalization for this position. Personally I don't expect anyone to take my trash to go through it for any purpose and wouldn't much like it much if someone did take it. My neighbors, strangers, nor law enforcement do not need to know my business. The lack of expectation in privacy to trash is one of these judicial pronouncements without a basis in fact. Numerous such determinations have been made by the courts whereby they simply declare something as fact and we as citizens must conform to that determination. The practice of law enforcement to collect garbage from suspected users of illegal substances is not a secret. Most defendants who are the subject of such searches and then must endure a knock on the door by the ninja squad, usually with a battering ram, should know that neatly disposing of the remainder of their illegal substances or of the paraphernalia used to contain it or to use it is not the thing to do. Most regular drug users who I represent have been the subject of a search warrant or have friends and associates who have. They certainly have an expectation that the evidence of their crime will be disposed of properly in the landfill for none to see or suspect. These people are aware that the use of these substances is illegal, that they may be arrested, thrown in jail, fined, and required to hire lawyers. These people do not throw their used meth pipes into the front yard for the neighborhood kids to find or the guy walking his dog to pick up and call about. They put them in a bag with the other trash, tie the bag, and expect the garbage truck to pick it up and to disappear it the next day. To say that there is no expectation of privacy is simply to declare something contrary to fact. I would argue that the trash sitting in your front yard waiting for pickup is an extension of your residence, which is your castle to be protected from search to the fullest extent possible. It is part of your curtilage which is the area around your house and associated buildings. If you become aware that someone is lurking in your back yard at night or your hear something in your open garage at three in the morning, you call the cops. If you can't sleep and are looking out the window when someone pulls up and throws your garbage bags in the back of a vehicle, you don't call the cops because it is the cops. But if you did call the cops, would that not be evidence that there was an expectation of privacy. I think this a marvelous idea. Call law enforcement if someone takes your trash. You, as home owner, or resident are paying for the collection of your trash. You know who is to be picking it up. You know that the people picking up your trash have neither the inclination or time to be sifting through it. When you send a letter to a person, you have an expectation that the letter will go to that person, not to a third person. Trash is hardly any different. When you set your trash on the curb, you expect it to go to the landfill, not to the police station.