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No Warrant Needed to Search for Evidence in Apartment Complex Dumpster
Description Appeals court upheld a conviction for dealing in drugs that was based upon a search by the police, without a warrant, of trash carried to a dumpster that contained cocaine wrappers. There is no protected privacy interest in garbage dumped in a communal dumpster that requires the police to obtain a warrant.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Warrantless Seizure
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Washington was convicted of dealing drugs. Police officers saw him dump trash in a dumpster outside of his apartment, went through the trash, and found small amounts of illegal drugs. They then obtained a search warrant for Washington's apartment, which yielded a stash of cocaine. Washington was sentenced to prison and appealed, contending that the search of his garbage in the dumpster, which was based on a police stakeout, was an illegal warrantless search.
Decision Affirmed. The factors to consider in determining whether there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy are: (1) the location of the garbage, (2) the extent to which the garbage is exposed to the public or out of the public's view, and (3) whether the garbage was placed for pickup by a collection service and actually picked up by the collection service before being turned over to the police." A communal dumpster for an apartment complex, located over 100 feet from the defendant's dwelling, does not have an expectation of privacy, so the warrantless search produced evidence that could be used by the police.
Citation State v. Washington, 518 S.E.2d 14 (Ct. App., N.C., 1999)

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