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I would like to solicit some comments regarding "Trash Runs." Taking
trash from garbage cans placed out for collection before the collection
company comes by to obtain information on subjects of investigation.
Trash has no value so therefore it is not theft, ie., taking the
property of another that has value.
Legal or not legal?
What say? and... is the information obtained privilaged?
In the criminal realm of law there are substantial cases saying that
searching trash is a 4th amendment violation. (Krivda, etc.) But what
about in the civil arena?
A.D.I. Investigative Services
I was involved in an investigation several years ago involving
the searching of garbage and there is some case law on it. Generally,
if the garbage is located on private property the owner of the property,
and the garbage, has an expectation of privacy. In some states a PI, or
police officer, can be cited for trespassing if he conducts a search of
the garbage while it is on private property.
At times they contend that garbage placed on a public sidewalk
is not protected by the 4th Amendment, however, I would be careful.
The safest thing to do, as we did in our case, is to wait until
the garbage collectors actually pick up the garbage and ask them for it.
At that time not only is the garbage completely abandoned it is the
property of the garbage collectors.
Delbert S. Buttman
Wizard Investigations
3402 Lansdowne Ct
Edgewood, MD 21040
Phone & Fax: 410-612-1019
Mark & Group,
"Dumpster diving, waste archeology, or trashing, all refer to rifling
garbage in an effort to cull valuable information. This is believed to
be the number one method of business and personal espionage."
Surprise! In and of itself, stealing garbage is legal. On May 16, 1988
the U. S. Supreme Court confirmed that there is no expectation of
privacy, or ownership, once an item is left for garbage pickup.
CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988) see at:
However there are some State, County and City Codes that prohibit certain
activities on, near or around dumpster locations. I for one do not partake
in this type of data collection unless it is absolutely necessary.
Joseph A. Alcala, Owner
J.A.A. and Associates, Consulting & Investigations
Fort Collins, Colorado | (970) 962-1800 |
PGP 5.0 Public Key Available On Request
The laws regarding "trash" vary from state to state, and in some areas on
the municipal level. Don't take the trash until you specifically research
what is and is not legal where you are.
Whether or not something is of value is not relevant.
Ian L. Sitren, Private Investigator
Post Office Box 11486 Santa Ana CA 92711 USA
Voice: 800 435-1438 Fax: 800 965-8523
International: Voice: 714 550-9107 Fax: 714 550-9470
I believe there are potentially two legal points here. First is possible
trespass, intruding on the "curtilage" (I think that's the legal
term-the house and private environs.) The second is "reasonable
expectation of privacy". I think it would be different in a situation
where the subject has put his/her garbage can at the curb in
anticipation of pickup (outside of the "curtilage") as opposed to
storing it behind their backdoor, for instance. Any potential value of
the trash is irrelevant.
Dave Crook
Counterfeit Products * Product Diversion * Product Tampering
Business Intelligence * Trade Secrets * Litigation Support
I have been involved in several cases that have gone to court
regarding this subject and It seems to be no problem as long as the
trash is on a "PUBLIC" street. If you trespass to get the trash then you
have a problem.
Kale Investigation Agency
P.O. Box 4243, Downey, CA 90241
One thing that should be brought up as well is the positive use of
garbage. Whenever I do a security check of a company one of the first
things I do is check the location of the dumpsters and how easy it is to
grab the trash. I have surprised a number of CEO's when I have shown
them what is thrown out by their employee's and how it can be used
against them.
This is all done under a contract with the company.
Joseph Seanor
CIBIR Corporation
Computer Crime Investigators
A.D.I. Investigative Services
I have to disagree with Mr. Newman. To say this type of person is not
"competent to actuate a "REAL"(whatever that means) investigation" is
kind of a low blow. Apparently Mr. Newman never has undertaken a rather
difficult assignment. When every known resource known to man has not
worked, it is sometimes necessary to make a "TRASH RUN" which uncovers
untold amounts of information. By the way this is my 30th year in this
business and we have conducted about 30 trash runs, which amounts to
about one per year and when we did them it was the last resort, but it
paid off. I would strongly suggest any investigator do everything
possible first. California has some very good case law regarding what is
considered public and private property. After you place your garbage on
a public street what reason of expectation of privacy do you think you
Kale Investigation Agency
P.O. Box 4243, Downey, CA 90241
In the criminal realm of law there are substantial cases saying that
searching trash is a 4th amendment violation. (Krivda, etc.) But what
about in the civil arena?
I never heard of that!! Back in the LE days, we had one person make trash
runs weekly to several different places. Trash is public property once
placed on the curb. It is just like your furniture when the sheriff puts it
out at the curb when you don't pay your rent. The difference is very few
people will take your trash.
Terry Mills
A significant majority of the
"dumpster diving" which occurs is ill advised. In the civil court the
person who mucks around in the garbage smells to a jury like another,
similar creature, the rat. Legal or not, only in cases where one truly has
a moral high ground is such an invasion of personal space lauded. In most
cases envolving the theft of trash it is obvious that the thief is not
competent to actuate a real investigation.
This has always been an interesting topic, one I often posed to my law
students. A topic which to date, has no finite answer in the civil
realm but indeed has definate precedence in criminal law. There are
well documented cases that invoke the exclusionary rule (Cal P.C.
1528.5) in criminal law as many of us have referenced. What about civil
law? If one does not trespass or participate in any conduct offensive
to the law, including local ordinances, is what has been obtained during
a "trash run" admissible?
I understand George Michael's response one who participates in such
activity smells perhaps, like a similar creature, a rat, to a jury but
what of information that leads you to more "acceptable" and "cultured"
evidence that is presentable. Does the taint follow? As far as
competency, I see no measure of such in one who is inventive and
creative. I do see shallow presence in those that snub their noses at
academic exercise which stimulate thought, fellowship and edification
while casting aspersions. Perhaps to elevate themselves at others
expense. This list is quite informative. People helping people.