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Trash not private, Supreme Court says

Canada's top court has ruled that it agrees with a lower court ruling that police do not need a warrant to a search...


Canada‘s top court has ruled that it agrees with a lower court ruling that police do not need a warrant to a search suspect’s curb-side garbage, rejecting arguments that people’s garbage is private.

Former swimming champion Russell Patrick had appealed a drug conviction, arguing police relied on “evidence of criminal activity” from the contents of his garbage to obtain a warrant to search his Calgary house and garage.

At trial, the defense argued the garbage seizure was an unconstitutional state intrusion.

But the Supreme Court of Canada said in its decision Patrick “abandoned his privacy interest when he placed his garbage for collection at the rear of his property where it was accessible to any passing member of the public.

“The bags were unprotected and within easy reach of anyone walking by in the public alley way, including street people, bottle pickers, urban foragers, nosey neighbors and mischievous children, not to mention dogs and assorted wildlife, as well as the garbage collectors and the police,” the court noted.

Patrick was sentenced in 2006 to four years in prison for the production, possession and trafficking of ecstasy, but was paroled for the duration of his court challenge.


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