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Fourth Amendment - Further Erosion of the Warrant Requirement for Unreasonable Searches and Seizures: The Warrantless Trash Search Exception

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 79 Issue: 3 Dated: (Fall 1988) Pages: 623-646
J A Line
Date Published
24 pages
This article examines a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the fourth amendment does not prohibit searching and seizing, without a warrant, trash or garbage left outside of a home for collection.
The facts of the case, California v. Greenwood, are discussed in detail as is the reasoning of the Court. The author argues that the majority in the Court erred in failing to adequately support its conclusion that society does not recognize an individual's reasonable right to expect privacy in the contents of his or her garbage can. According to the majority in the court, when an individual voluntarily relinquishes his or her garbage bag to the trash collector, there is a forfeiture of any privacy interest in the contents. The article supports Justices Brennan and Marshall who dissented and concluded that citizens should be able to expect that the contents of their garbage bags will not be searched unless the searchers first obtain a warrant. 167 footnotes.


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