SW Legal studies in Business

Garbage Bags Put Outside for Collection Not Protected Against Search and Seizure
Description

Wyoming high court held that when a person puts trash outside for collection there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Hence, it was not an illegal search and seizure for police to take a trash bag looking for evidence of suspected drug dealing, which was confirmed and resulted in an arrest and conviction.

Topic Criminal Law
Key Words

Search and Seizure; Expectation of Privacy; Trash

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Wyoming police were told that Barekman was selling large quantities of marijuana from his residence. The police went to Barekman’s residence and took a bag of trash out of a trash can in front of the residence. In the trash bag they found marijuana residue and packaging. Obtaining a warrant, they searched the residence and found all kinds of drugs. Barekman was convicted. He appealed, contesting that the taking of his trash was an improper search and seizure that violated his expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

Decision

Affirmed. Under Wyoming law, a person alleging an illegal search must show a legitimate expectation of privacy in the searched property. In considering whether a person has an expectation of privacy, the court considers: 1) the precautions that the person took to maintain privacy, 2) the likely intent of the drafters of the Wyoming Constitution, 3) the property rights the person possessed in the invaded area, and 4) the legitimacy of the person’s possession of the property subject to search or seizure. Barekman has no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to his trash, as he put bags out on the street for collection by a third party.

Citation

Barekman v. State, 200 P.3d 802 (Sup. Ct., Wyo., 2009)

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