Your Trash is Yours

Oregon Supreme Court says Garbage in cans and bags is private property.

On Thursday the Oregon Supreme Court made the decision that says the trash inside of containers on private property are the sole property of the owner. With police having used tactics in the past to claim bags of garbage left out for investigation purposes, they will now have to change that tactic and find other ways to obtain that evidence.

Other people that go through garbage, such as homeless, the press, or professional dumpster divers can now be prosecuted for theft if they remove or even get into the containers to get items out. With the items in the bags and cans being yours until they are claimed by the garbage company, and even then the police cannot ask the garbage company to save the items for them anymore without a valid search warrant.

With opinion read by the court it seems the Oregon Supreme Court has sided with personal liberties over the states interests. “The state’s residents have a reasonable expectation that after they leave their trash in opaque bins covered with a lid, no one, including the garbage hauler’s employees, will inspect it without a warrant.”

Containers on public property will still be open to inspection and can be sifted through by anyone, Containers on private property cannot, even if you can see into them.

One Gresham resident wondered if the law would backfire if perhaps some puppies or a baby were left in a container on private property. The answer is simple for that, it is called “exigent circumstance,” meaning that if the life of a person or animal were in danger the police would not have to stop to get a warrant to get the person or animal out of the enclosed container, the could simply do it under Oregon’s caretaking laws.

Written by Stephan Ball

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