California v Greenwood

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California v Greenwood

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized


-Greenwood suspected of dealing drugs. Reports late night and early morning visitors streaming in and out of the single family home constantly.-Police took searched garbage bags collected by garbagemen.-Evidence found led to a warrant and drugs being discovered inside.-Greenwood argued that searching his garbage violated his 4th Amendment right.-Greenwood wins the case.-California challenged it to the Supreme Court. -Supreme Court rules in favor of CaliforniaGreenwood's argument: The garbage placed on the street was placed in opaque bags, and by making them not transparent, he anticipated privacy. Also, if the sidewalk is public property, anybody can place contraband in the bags, thus not tying the drugs found in his refuse to him.Supreme Court: The bag was placed on public property, and regardless of color they were subject to search. This search made the warrant justified and legal.

The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 2 in favor of California. Court argued there was no reasonable expectation to privacy for trash on public streets. They also noted the police cannot be expected to ignore criminal activity that can be observed by "any member of the public."

Lasting Impact

The ruling gave more power to the government in regards to the 4th Amendment


4th Amendment


California v Greenwood

Justice William Brennan: Even though Greenwood threw the items away, he still desired the contents to remain private, and discarded items should not be subject to search and seizure.

Video of an interview with the lawyer who represented California.



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