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On March 11, 2015, the Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed a lower court decision against David Ford McMurray, who was found guilty of third-degree possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to twenty-four months. McMurray was charged after Hutchinson, Minnesota police searched through his garbage and found evidence of methamphetamine. The majority held that a warrantless search of the defendant’s garbage was reasonable under the federal and state constitutions because a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage set out for collection on the side of a public street because garbage is readily accessible to other members of the public. The dissenting judge persuasively opined that there is, in fact, a reasonable expectation of privacy when an individual places his or her garbage at the curb for collection because household waste contains personal information that most individuals expect will remain private. This Comment argues that the dissent’s approach better understands the private nature of waste, the opinion’s troubling repercussions for disadvantaged communities, and the potential for broader government intrusion.
The Big Stink About Garbage: State v. McMurray and a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy,
B.C.J.L. & Soc. Just.
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