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July 22, 2005

Privacy and garbage

From the Billings Gazette...

Montanans' right to privacy does not extend to their garbage that fills trash cans along alleys and curbs, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

Taking out the trash is the same as abandoning such refuse, and law officers don't need a warrant to rummage through remnants of citizens' lives, the justices said in a 5-2 decision Tuesday.

The court concluded that "when a person intentionally abandons his property, that person's expectation of privacy with regard to that property is abandoned as well."

The case involved a 2002 drug investigation of Darrell Pelvit, a Miles City man suspected of operating a methamphetamine lab at his house. Agents searched his garbage cans in the alley behind his home and found traces of items used in making the drug. That resulted in a search warrant for Pelvit's house, pickup truck and boat, producing evidence of an illegal drug operation.

I thought that issue had been settled already. If you throw it away — it's not yours anymore. Seems logical to me. I never liked this idea of punishing the victim for the mistakes of the police (although in this case there was no mistake). If a cop obtains evidence illegally, the evidence should be allowed as long as the cop is punished for breaking the law. What happen now? The cop isn't punished, and the evidence is thrown out — punishing the victim.

Posted by Danny Carlton at July 22, 2005 09:30 AM

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