Monday, July 25, 2005

Montana: No Right to Privacy in Garbage

The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that a citizen has no right to privacy in their garbage.

The Montana Constitution, in effect, requires a warrant for the government - that is, law enforcement officers - to search and seize a citizen's property or effects where that person has an expectation of privacy. But that does not apply to garbage thrown away by that person.

The court stated that "when a person intentionally abandons his property, that person's expectation of privacy with regard to that property is abandoned as well."

Police officer's searched garbage cans behind a suspect's home and found evidence of drug activity. This evidence was used to get a search warrant for the house. The defendant, convicted, claimed all the evidence should have been thrown out because it was tainted by the unconstitutional warrantless search of his trash.

The decision was 5-2. The dissenting justices argued that citizens of the state should expect privacy even in the trash they have left outside.


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