- March 10, 2008 at 7:42 pm #256539
I was just pointing out that the police can
take things from your trash without a warrant because you’ve basically
relinquished rights to it once you’ve thrown it away. Just like if you
throw a kleenex on the sidewalk they can then use that for DNA testing
etc. Because you threw it away and no longer have expectations of
privacy etc. That’s why throwing away anything with personal info is
hazardous. Once it’s in the trash people can forage for it and not a
lot would be done about it until they’d actually used the info. If
someone gets in your trash that is placed on the curb… IF they make a
mess they might get in trouble for littering… but not for stealing.
IF they damaged your trash cans then they might get in trouble for
property damage. But I honestly don’t think they’d be charged with
stealing. Most DUMPSTERS remain on your property close to your
dwelling or business. That is different than placing your trash cans
at the curb. But still, even dumpster divers would probably only be
charged with trespass not with stealing.
Some research I found on dumpster diving:
In 1988 the US Supreme Court ruled that trash-picking is legal. But
even before that, there are centuries-old president laws going back to
Jolly Old England that establish as a veritable “right” for scavengers
to obtain and keep or sell anything they find in the trash.
are when dumpsters are locked, are inside gates, or posted
no trespassing, or when there specific municiple restrictions which
would regard it as theft to remove material from recycle bins as
distinct from trash dumpsters of mixed refuse.
large when it’s in the trash, it’s fair game, whether you’re
the cops going through the trash looking for evidence without a search
warrant (in most cases, they don’t need a search warrant), a crazy nosy
neighbor reading then posting on the web someone’s discarded
correspondence (no legal right to privacy if it is thrown in the trash,
though some copyright protections to reproducing or “publishing” it
might apply), a hungry homeless guy looking for pizza rinds, a
craftperson looking for weird junk to weld together into “art”, a junk
dealer looking for salable freebies, a major recycling company
contracting with the city or county but not
with whomever threw out the garbage, or a dumpster-diving hobbyist,
such as a gardener, salvaging thrown-out potted plants or burst-open
compost bags from behind a Walmart or Home Depot or from a compost heap
at the cemetery.
The illegal part would be depositing your own trash in someone else’s
dumpster; circumventing a lock; or leaving a mess. When trash is on the
curb or alley, there is not even a trespassing issue, but on business
tarmacks or parking lots the issue of trespassing can become clouded,
though if legal access is generally permitted for customers, so too it
is for dumpster divers.
Garbage left on a property that does not permit general access is
illegal to take — that worn out couch on the curb you can take, but
when it was still sitting on the front lawn getting rained on and
moldy, it remained the home owner’s personal possession. There are also
“intellectual property” issues. For instance, if I throw out a
manuscript for an original short story and you find it, the
manuscript is yours, but you can’t publish it; or if you find a
computer hard drive, it’s yours, but the software on it might not be
legally transferable; and so on.
Most dumpster diving is behind retail shops. The restriction (with
exceptions) is usually a lock, not a law. No lock, no prohibition.
Dumpster diving has become so common, though, that some cities feel the
need to regulate diving, as sometimes guys with big trucks drive
through alleys getting recyclables & whatnot, & sometimes bums
leave nuisance calling-cards like all the black plastic bags ripped
open and scattered about a parking area. A few states or cities are
mostly concerned with dumpster diving only for the
sake of taxing such microbusinesses which scrounge and sell enough
stuff to make a living, who often fall underneath the radar of taxing
Karen Pierce wrote:
I agree you
shouldn’t throw sensitive stuff out in the trash. But bottom line is
that if it is on your property and someone takes something off your
property, they are stealing. Your property is your property. If you
don’t mind someone taking something off your property, of course you
wouldn’t get the police involved.
But if you
do NOT want anyone going through your trash and they DO, you do have
the right to get the police involved, as that person is trespassing on
mentioned, this was an extreme example. I’m just pointing out that any
company’s dumpster is NOT public domain and they do have the right to
keep people OUT of their dumpsters.
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