On Wednesday, March 11th, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that residents should have no expectation of privacy once they put their trash bins on the curb for pickup.
The case in question, that of David McMurray, hinged on the admissibility of a warrant to search his home, which was only procured when police found drug paraphernalia in his curbside garbage bin.
Police were alerted to the residence when McMurray’s daughter informed a mandated reporter that she had seen her mother with a pipe used for drugs. A search of the trash bin yielded white residue laden plastic bags, which later tested positive for methamphetamine, amongst other items. This was used as evidence that prompted the search warrant that led to McMurray’s arrest.
Though there was a dissenting justice, the decision determines that the Minnesota Constitution does not provide any additional privacy protection than the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution. This decision is in agreement with the Court of Appeals decision to rule the search constitutional.
In the final decision, the court cited that because garbage is left out with the expectation that a third-party will collect it, said third-party could easily sort through it or allow someone else to do so. Therefore, garbage left out on the public street should not be considered private.
This ruling raises questions concerning crimes such as identity theft and other fraud that is made possible by accidentally discarded sensitive personal information. And the issue of having searches conducted without “reasonable articulable suspicion of wrongdoing,” a concern which was brought forth by dissenting Justice David Lillehaug.