824 N.E.2d 356 (Ind. 2005)
IN state police were supplied with information about companies who advertised in High Times magazine, Worm’s Way gardening being one of them. Worm’s Way sent shipments to Litchfield. The state police searched Litchfield’s trash where it is normally placed for pick up. Troopers actually entered Litchfield’s garage where the barrels were located and found marijuana stems. Litchfield was charged with possession of marijuana and maintaining a nuisance.
“The legality of a governmental search under the Indiana Constitution turns on an
evaluation of the reasonableness of the police conduct under the totality of the
“We hold that a search of trash recovered from the place where it is left for collection is permissible under the Indiana Constitution, but only if the investigating officials have an articulable basis justifying reasonable suspicion that the subjects of the search have engaged in
violations of law that might reasonably lead to evidence in the trash.”
A similar case (Moran) revealed that the court would tolerate searching of trash by officers under the reasonableness test because citizens had an expectation that their trash would be picked up and disposed of and are satisfied when that is done so. When the officer doesn’t disrupt that process, no violation occurs. This court reasoned that if the trash is in the location where it’s normally picked up, there is no violation because the trash agency is invited to the property to dispose of the trash. The trash will eventually be in state hands anyway; and it makes no difference whether it is placed in the location for pick or whether it is in the junk yard. The court wrote that when the citizen sets his trash out where the public can access it, he does so with the assumption that the agency may pick it up and cedes all rights to it.
A search, therefore, is reasonable only where the trash is searched in a place where it was normally collected. In this case the trash was searched where it was normally collected.
This coupled with the fact that police did not undertake an arbitrary search of an individual, but rather searched on a particularized reasonable suspicion makes the search permissible. Moreover, the police did not cause a neighborhood disruption or the appearance of a police raid.