The Supreme Court of the United States has held that trash left for collection at the curb is not subject to a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore may be searched by the police without a warrant. See California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988). So-called “trash pulls” are now a routine feature of drug investigations. When officers find drugs, drug residue, drug paraphernalia, or other indicia of drug activity in the trash, does that provide probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant for the associated residence?
It is settled law that the police may rummage through a person’s trash once it is put out to the curb for collection. “Trash pulls” are a routine part of drug investigations, where sufficient evidence of drug activity found in the garbage may support a search warrant for the associated residence. But how much evidence is enough? For example, if a person’s garbage contains the remains of a single marijuana cigarette, does that provide probable cause to believe that further evidence of drug activity will be present inside the house?