The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a recent decision of interest in State v. McMurray, __ N.W.2d __ (Minn. 2015). In McMurray, the police were advised that a minor had witnessed her mother in possession of a pipe believed to be used for drugs. An investigator reviewed police records and learned that the mother and McMurray had been previously arrested for controlled substance violations. Law enforcement subsequently contacted the operator of a commercial truck who collected McMurray’s garbage and asked the driver to assist in securing garbage placed at McMurray’s curb. The driver agreed to help and the officer met the driver at a different location to search through the garbage. Law enforcement found several plastic bags containing a substance that later tested positive as Methamphetamine. In addition, law enforcement located drug paraphernalia and documents belonging to McMurray. Law enforcement then obtained a warrant to search McMurray’s home based on information received from the reporter in contact with McMurray’s daughter as well as the items collected through the warrantless search of McMurray’s garbage. McMurray was subsequently placed under arrest and later argued that the search of his garbage had been unconstitutional and absent information obtained through that search, a warrant would not have been issued for the search of his home. The decision noted several United States Supreme Court cases holding that individuals do not have a reasonable expectation under the U.S. Constitution in garbage placed at the curb for collection. The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to find additional expectation of privacy arising under the Minnesota Constitution.The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the lawfulness of the warrant.
In light of the McMurray decision, individuals should be aware of their limited expectation of privacy in garbage and conduct themselves accordingly. Individuals concerned about protecting their privacy, may want to consult with resources referenced in the court’s decision, such as a publication from the office of the Minnesota Attorney General.
The attorneys at Hansen Dordell handle criminal cases and related civil cases. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime or is facing other criminal implications, call or e-mail an experienced attorney at Hansen Dordell. 651-482-8900.