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California v. Greenwood

Significance, A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy, Should The Fourth Amendment Protect Garbage?, Impact


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.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988