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California v. Greenwood - Significance, A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy, Should The Fourth Amendment Protect Garbage?, Impact

decision court curb petitioner


State of California


Billy Greenwood

Petitioner's Claim

That a warrantless search and seizure of garbage placed at the curb for pickup does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Michael J. Pear

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Michael Ian Garey

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall (Anthony M. Kennedy did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

16 May 1988


Reversed the California Court of Appeal decision and ruled that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage placed on the curb for collection.

Related Cases

  • People v. Krivda, 5 Cal.3d 357 (1971).
  • United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974).
  • State v. Hauser, 342 N.C. 382 (1976).
  • United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).

Further Readings

  • Sanders, Alain L. "Lifting the Lid on Garbage." Time, May 30, 1988.
  • Shanoff, Barry. "Garbage is Public Property on Curb." World Wastes, June 1998, p. 74.
  • Uviller, H. Richard. "The Fourth Amendment: Does it Protect Your Garbage?" The Nation, October 10, 1988.
Chandler v. Florida - Cameras In The Courtroom, Does The Constitution Forbid Televised Coverage Of Trials?, Impact, Televised Trials [next] [back] California v. Ciraolo - Significance, Unresonable Search And Seizure, The Liability Of Open Airspace, Impact

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over 11 years ago

if the trash collector was suspicious of something then he has every right to report it to the police. I also say that it wasnt billy greenwood's property anymore becasue he threw it out to have the trash collectors to take away so the police had ever right to check the bags and something was in the bags that he didnt want people to see because they were in a dark green trash bags

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over 8 years ago

Once someone disposes of something, in essence dispossessing themselves of the property itself, the issue of 'privacy' is moot. When a person tosses something away to be collected by a sanitation agency that something is rightly considered 'trash' or 'garbage' and thus contains no inherent 'right' to anything. There can be no valid , objective law concerning privacy 'rights' to dispossessed property.

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almost 10 years ago

i think the cops had every right to go through his trash. it was set out on the curb for a complete stranger (the garbage man) to pick up. know of a lot of people that go out on garbage nights and look through people's trash, not the bags, but other things that they have sitting out there waitting to go. a bag is no different.

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about 3 years ago

i think the popo should be able to search it the people putting there trash out are pretty much giving it away

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over 10 years ago

i think that cops are violating the fourth amendment all time. they are doing illegal seaches when they have no probable cause

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almost 8 years ago

i think they are all f***'d up they have no rite !!!!!

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about 10 years ago

I belive that the police had no right to search through the trash. See since it was on the curb and not the sidewalk, which the curb is his propety therefore making it illigal to search. So since they did they found the narrcotics, got a search warent and found more. So he is guilty but the police are guilty as well