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Helping New Brunswickers Know the Law

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August 12, 2009

Privacy Rights in Garbage

In April 2009 the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in R. v. Patrick, holding that garbage put to the curb for pick up does not hold a privacy interest because of the diminished expectation of privacy.  In that case, the court found that the accused had abandoned his privacy interest when he put his garbage out for collection.  Anyone passing by, children, garbage collectors or animals could have opened the contents of the garbage left at the curb.  The police search of his garbage led to the accused being convicted of trafficking in ecstasy. 

This decision now confirms that police do not need a search warrant to search garbage left out for pick up and can use any evidence found in garbage to make an arrest.  Police can sift through garbage if it has been set out at the edge of your property for municipal collection because "abandoned" goods do not trigger privacy protection. Significant privacy rights can be at stake when your garbage contains personal information.