Newsbrief: State Courts in Indiana, Oregon Restrict Police Garbage Searches 4/8/05

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While the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that police do not need a search warrant to search people's trash once it has been placed outside for collection, two recent rulings in state courts will place limits on police in Indiana and Oregon. The Rehnquist Supreme Court has held that police do not need search warrants because people have no reasonable expectation of privacy for their trash once they have left it on the curb -- or inside a low fence, or even 18 feet away from the property line.

But the Indiana Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals have managed to find protections in their respective state constitutions that the Supreme Court could not find in the US Constitution. In Indiana, the state high court merely ordered that police must offer a specific reason for searching someone's trash that includes a reasonable expectation of turning up evidence, while in Oregon, the state's appellate court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before going through the garbage.

In the Indiana case, Litchfield v. State Patrick and Susan May Litchfield were arrested after police digging through their trash found burnt rolling papers and marijuana stems, seed, and leaves. State police got their names from the DEA, which had come across them in records subpoenaed from companies advertising in High Times magazine. Armed with the evidence from the trash search, police got a search warrant and discovered 51 marijuana plants growing inside the couples' home. The state Supreme Court on March 24 threw out their conviction and returned the case to the lower courts to determine if the initial, warrantless garbage search was reasonable.

"The police can no longer, out of curiosity, come out to see what's in your trash," Indianapolis defense attorney Robert Hammerle told the Indianapolis Star after reviewing the ruling. "We now require more of police officers than we do of raccoons."

In Oregon, the Court of Appeals decided a pair of cases, Oregon v. Hoesly and Oregon v. Galloway, where defendants argued that police illegally searched their trash. One of the cases is locally infamous, featuring Portland police searching the trash of fellow officer Gina Hoesly and cataloguing her used tampons as well as traces of methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy. The other case involved a Clatskanie couple, Thad and Amy Galloway, who were arrested after police found a small amount of marijuana in their garbage and used that as evidence to support a search warrant search that found a marijuana grow and methamphetamine.

In both cases, circuit court judges ruled that police had violated the Oregon constitution's protections against unreasonable searches. Unlike the US Supreme Court, the Oregon Appeals Court agreed, holding that people did not give up their "privacy or possessory interests" in their refuse simple by leaving it out for the trash man. The defendants put their garbage "in a particular place in order to facilitate a limited purpose... pickup and disposal by a designated collection company," the unanimous three-judge panel ruled March 30. "Defendants did not implicitly authorize anyone else to paw through their garbage and view or take items of garbage."

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Issue #381 -- 4/8/05

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Medical Marijuana Bills Moving in the States | Hemp Legislation on the Move in the States | NORML 2005: Activists Meet and Plot in America's Marijuana Mecca | Pushing the Envelope in Oaksterdam | How Did Your US Representative Vote on Medical Marijuana Last Year? | Please Help Students Losing Financial Aid for College Because of Drug Convictions Get Their Aid Back -- Alerts Online for the House, Senate, and Arizona and Rhode Island Legislatures | Newsbrief: With Prohibition Failing, China Calls for "Peoples' War" on Drugs | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Allowing Drug Dog Searches Outside People's Homes | Newsbrief: State Courts in Indiana, Oregon Restrict Police Garbage Searches | Newsbrief: Iowa League of Women Voters Criticizes Drug Policy, Calls for Sentencing Reform | Newsbrief: NORML Issues Sobering Report on Prohibitionist "Drugged Driving" Offensive | Media Scan: American Enterprise Institute on US Drug Policy, New York Times on Hurwitz Case, Christopher Hallam on Afghanistan, NYPD Narcotics Against Legalization | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar


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