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Going Through the Garbage 730

Posted by michael
from the taking-out-the-trash dept.
frankejames writes "This is a very funny piece on how Portland politicians said it was okay for police to seize a citizen's garbage without a search warrant. But when some reporters swiped their garbage (and reported the contents!) they screamed foul play! Read Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs."
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Going Through the Garbage

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  • Re:confused... (Score:2, Informative)

    by PsychoElf (571371) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @04:52PM (#4990753)
    Depends on the state. But most states its illegal. It is still that persons property till the trash man takes it. Then it becomes the property of the trash company.
  • Re:If you... (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavera (320634) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @04:53PM (#4990771) Homepage Journal
    Garbage men get paid a heck of alot more than that,
    they actually make like 25-30/hour, at least in Nevada they do.
  • Re:confused... (Score:2, Informative)

    by BigDish (636009) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @04:56PM (#4990788)
    I wouldn't assume because the cans are their property, the trash is also. The cans are designed to be re-used, and just like taking a mailbox would be theft, so would taking the cans The trash, on the other hand, is discarded. From my previous research, as far as I know in about 99% of cases taking trash is legal. If you are asked to leave, you should though, as at that point if you do not leave, it becomes tresspassing.
  • by Detritus (11846) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @04:57PM (#4990793) Homepage
    What law? By putting your trash at the curb, you relinquish ownership. Anyone can legally take it. Police officers do not have special rights in this area.
  • text from site (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shuck (218188) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @04:58PM (#4990799) Homepage
    RUBBISH!
    Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs.

    by CHRIS LYDGATE AND NICK BUDNICK
    clydgate@wweek.com
    nbudnick@wweek.com

    Web-only content:
    Vera Katz's press release
    Stories that have appeared in other media
    KATU
    The Oregonian

    It's past midnight. Over the whump of the wipers and the screech of the fan belt, we lurch through the side streets of Southeast Portland in a battered white van, double-checking our toolkit: flashlight, binoculars, duct tape, scissors, watch caps, rawhide gloves, vinyl gloves, latex gloves, trash bags, 30-gallon can, tarpaulins, Sharpie, notebook--notebook?

    Well, yes. Technically, this is a journalistic exercise--at least, that's what we keep telling ourselves. We're upholding our sacred trust as representatives of the Fourth Estate. Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable. Pushing the reportorial envelope--by liberating the trash of Portland's top brass.

    We didn't dream up this idea on our own. We got our inspiration from the Portland police.

    Back in March, the police swiped the trash of fellow officer Gina Hoesly. They didn't ask permission. They didn't ask for a search warrant. They just grabbed it. Their sordid haul, which included a bloody tampon, became the basis for drug charges against her (see "Gross Violation," below).

    The news left a lot of Portlanders--including us--scratching our heads. Aren't there rules about this sort of thing? Aren't citizens protected from unreasonable search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment?

    The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office doesn't think so. Prosecutor Mark McDonnell says that once you set your garbage out on the curb, it becomes public property.

    "She placed her garbage can out in the open, open to public view, in the public right of way," McDonnell told Judge Jean Kerr Maurer earlier this month. "There were no signs on the garbage, 'Do not open. Do not trespass.' There was every indication...she had relinquished her privacy, possessory interest."

    Police Chief Mark Kroeker echoed this reasoning. "Most judges have the opinion that [once] trash is put out...it's trash, and abandoned in terms of privacy," he told WW.

    In fact, it turns out that police officers throughout Oregon have been rummaging through people's trash for more than three decades. Portland drug cops conduct "garbage pulls" once or twice per month, says narcotics Sgt. Eric Schober.

    On Dec. 10, Maurer rubbished this practice. Scrutinizing garbage, she declared, is an invasion of privacy: The police must obtain a search warrant before they swipe someone's trash.

    "Personal and business correspondence, photographs, personal financial information, political mail, items related to health concerns and sexual practices are all routinely found in garbage receptacles," Maurer wrote. The fact that a person has put these items out for pick-up, she said, "does not suggest an invitation to others to examine them."

    But local law enforcement officials pooh-poohed the judge's decision.

    "This particular very unique and very by-herself judge took a position not in concert with the other judges who had given us instruction by their decisions across the years," said Kroeker.

    The District Attorney's Office agreed and vowed to challenge the ruling.

    The question of whether your trash is private might seem academic. It's not. Your garbage can is like a trap door that opens on to your most intimate secrets; what you toss away is, in many ways, just as revealing as what you keep.

    And your garbage can is just one of the many places where your privacy is being pilfered. In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government has granted itself far-reaching new powers to spy on you, from email to bank statements to video cameras (see "Big Brother's in Your Trash Can," below).

    After much debate, we resolved to turn the tables on three of our esteemed public officials. We embarked on an unauthorized sightseeing tour of their garbage, to make a point about how invasive a "garbage pull" really is--and to highlight the government's ongoing erosion of people's privacy.

    We chose District Attorney Mike Schrunk because his office is the most vocal defender of the proposition that your garbage is up for grabs. We chose Police Chief Mark Kroeker because he runs the bureau. And we chose Mayor Vera Katz because, as police commissioner, she gives the chief his marching orders.

    Each, in his or her own way, has endorsed the notion that you abandon your privacy when you set your trash out on the curb. So we figured they wouldn't mind too much if we took a peek at theirs.

    Boy, were we wrong.

    Perched in his office on the 15th floor of the Justice Center, Chief Kroeker seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea of trash as public property.

    "Things inside your house are to be guarded," he told WW. "Those that are in the trash are open for trash men and pickers and--and police. And so it's not a matter of privacy anymore."

    Then we spread some highlights from our haul on the table in front of him.

    "This is very cheap," he blurted out, frowning as we pointed out a receipt with his credit-card number, a summary of his wife's investments, an email prepping the mayor about his job application to be police chief of Los Angeles, a well-chewed cigar stub, and a handwritten note scribbled in pencil on a napkin, so personal it made us cringe. We also drew his attention to a newsletter from the conservative political advocacy group Focus on the Family, addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. Mark Kroeker."

    "Are you a member of Focus on the Family?" we asked.

    "No," the chief replied.

    "Is your wife?"

    "You know," he said, with a Clint Eastwood gaze, "it's none of your business."

    As we explained our thinking, the chief, who is usually polite to a fault, cut us off in midsentence. "OK," he said, suddenly standing up, "we're done."

    Hours later, the chief issued a press release complaining that WW had gone through "my personal garbage at my home." KATU promptly took to the airwaves declaring, "Kroeker wants Willamette Week to stay out of his garbage."

    If the chief got overheated, the mayor went nuclear. When we confessed that we had swiped her recycling, she summoned us to her chambers.

    "She wants you to bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney," said her press secretary, Sarah Bott.

    Actually, we couldn't snatch Katz's garbage, because she keeps it right next to her house, well away from the sidewalk. To avoid trespassing, we had to settle for a bin of recycling left out front.

    The day after our summons, Wednesday, Dec. 18, we trudged down to City Hall, stack of newsprint in hand. A gaggle of TV and radio reporters were waiting to greet us, tipped off by high-octane KXL motor-mouth Lars Larson.

    We filed into the mayor's private conference room. The atmosphere, chilly to begin with, turned arctic when the mayor marched in. She speared us each with a wounded glare, then hoisted the bin of newspaper and stalked out of the room--all without uttering a word.

    A few moments later, her office issued a prepared statement. "I consider Willamette Week's actions in this matter to be potentially illegal and absolutely unscrupulous and reprehensible," it read. "I will consider all my legal options in response to their actions."

    In contrast, DA Mike Schrunk was almost playful when we owned up to nosing through his kitchen scraps. "Do I have to pay for this week's garbage collection?" he joked.

    We told Schrunk that we intended to report that his garbage contained mementos of his military service. "Don't burn me on that," he implored. "The Marine Corps will shoot me!"

    It's worth emphasizing that our junkaeological dig unearthed no whiff of scandal. Based on their throwaways, the chief, the DA and the mayor are squeaky-clean, poop-scooping folks whose private lives are beyond reproach. They emerge from this escapade smelling like--well, coffee grounds.

    But if three moral, upstanding, public-spirited citizens were each chewing their nails about the secrets we might have stumbled on, how the hell should the rest of us be feeling?

    HAUL OF FAME

    Decked out in watch caps and rubber gloves, we are kneeling in a freezing garage and cradling our first major discovery--a five-pound bag of dog poo.

    We set it down next to the rest of our haul from District Attorney Mike Schrunk's trash--the remains of Thanksgiving turkey, the mounting stack of his granddaughter's diapers, the bag of dryer lint, the tub of Skippy peanut butter, and the shredded bag of peanut M&Ms.

    There is something about poking through someone else's garbage that makes you feel dirty, and it's not just the stench and the flies. Scrap by scrap, we are reverse-engineering a grimy portrait of another human being, reconstituting an identity from his discards, probing into stuff that is absolutely, positively none of our damn business.

    It's one thing to revel in the hallowed tradition of muckraking. It's another to get down on your hands and knees and nose through wads of someone else's Kleenex. Is this why our parents sent us to college? So we could paw through orange peels and ice-cream tubs and half-eaten loaves of bread?

    And yet, there is also something seductive, almost intoxicating, about being a Dumpster detective. For example, we spot a clothing tag marked "44/Regular." Then we find half of a torn receipt from Meier & Frank for $262.99. Then we find the other half, which reads: "MENS SU 3BTN." String it together, and we deduce that Schrunk plunked down $262.99 for a size-44 three-button suit at Meier & Frank on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 9:35 am.

    We are getting to know Portland's top prosecutor from the inside out. Here's an empty bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. There's a pile of castoff duds from his days as a Marine. Is he going "soft" on terrorism!?

    Chinese takeout boxes and junk-food wrappers testify to a busy lifestyle with little time to cook. A Post-it note even lays bare someone's arithmetic skills (the addition is solid, but the long division needs work).

    Our haul from Mayor Vera Katz is limited to a stack of newsprint from her recycling bin--her garbage can was well out of reach--but we assemble several clues to her intellectual leanings. We find overwhelming evidence that the Mayor reads The Oregonian, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, U.S. Mayor and the Portland Tribune.

    We also stumble across a copy of TV Click in which certain programs have been circled in municipal red. If we're not mistaken, the mayor has a special fondness for dog shows, figure skating and The West Wing.

    Our inspection of Chief Kroeker's refuse reveals that he is a scrupulous recycler. He is also a health nut. We find a staggering profusion of health-food containers: fat-free milk cartons, fat-free cereal boxes, cans of milk chocolate weight-loss shakes, cans of Swanson chicken broth ("99% fat free!"), water bottles, a cardboard box of protein bars, tubs of low-fat cottage cheese, a paper packet of oatmeal, and an article on "How to Live a Long Healthy Life."

    At the same time, we find evidence of rust in the chief's iron self-discipline: wrappers from See's chocolate bars, an unopened bag of Doritos, a dozen perfectly edible fun-size Nestle Crunch bars, three empty Coke cans.

    We unearth a crate that once contained 12 bottles of Cook's California sparkling wine, but find no trace of the bottles themselves. Is the chief building a pyramid of them on the mantelpiece? We stack the crate beside a pair of white children's socks, a broken pen, the stub of an Excalibur 1066 cigar, burnt toast, a freezer bag of date bars, orange peel, coffee grounds, a cork, an empty film canister (no weed--we checked), eggshells, Q tips, tissue paper and copious quantities of goo.

    We uncrumple a holiday flier from the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church, which contains a handwritten note: "Mark. Just want you to know one Latin from Manhattan Loves You."

    Invasion of privacy? This is a frontal assault, a D-Day, a Norman Conquest of privacy. We know the chief's credit-card number; we know where he buys his groceries; we know how much toilet tissue he goes through. We know whose Christmas cards he has pitched, whose wedding he skipped, whose photo he threw away. We know what newsletters he gets and how much he's socked away in the stock market. We even know he's thinking about a new car--and which models he's considering.

    By the time we tag the last item (a lonesome Christmas tree angel), our noses are running and our gloves are black with gunk. We scrub our hands when we get home. But we still feel dirty. --CL

    WHAT WE FOUND

    POLICE CHIEF MARK KROEKER

    * Empty containers and wrappers: Kodiak Washington pears, Washington "extra fancy" fancy lady peaches, Oasis Floral Foam bricks ("Worth Insisting Upon") (2), Kashi Go Lean! cereal, Sunshine fat-free milk, Kirkland Signature weight-loss shake, fat-free Swanson Chicken Broth, mandarin oranges, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Arrowhead water bottle, Cook's California sparkling-wine box, fried apples, cheese rolls, Bounty paper towels 15-roll pack, Kirkland facial tissue, 12-pack Dove soap, Quaker oatmeal, See's candy bars, lady's razors, Dentyne Ice chewing gum, Vivant zesty vegetable crackers.

    * Hershey's Cookies n Crème mini-bars, uneaten (3).

    * Several Oregonian issues, still folded.

    * Email correspondence between chief and Mayor Katz's staff in which he preps them on what to tell Los Angeles officials regarding his application to be chief there.

    * Rough draft, internal police memo.

    * Various cash-register receipts.

    * Half-full bag of fun-size Nestle Crunch bars.

    * Slice of burnt toast.

    * Photocopy of WW Nov. 13 "Murmurs" item on chief, hand-dated in blue pen, reporting scuttlebutt that Katz has "taken over the day-to-day running of the Police Bureau."

    * Half-smoked stub of an Excalibur 1066 cigar.

    * Paper cups from Starbucks and Torrefazione.

    * Pears, lettuce, grapes, bread, eggshells, goo, potato salad, wire hangers, a 75 watt light bulb, orange peels, coffee grounds, wine cork, dish rag, film canister, used Q-Tips.

    * Half-eaten protein bar, still in wrapper.

    * Newsletter from Focus on the Family, a conservative political group. Insert, addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. Mark Kroeker." Insert asks for "one last year-end contribution."

    * Photos of chief and a bare-chested man moving a large appliance.

    * Creased wedding photo of a prominent Portlander.

    * Broken pen.

    * Three envelopes from California, hand-addressed, sent on consecutive days.

    * Notice from mortgage company for payment.

    * Internet printout of "How to Live a Long Healthy Life."

    * Postcard from friend vacationing in Arizona.

    * Post-it with notes about a new car.

    * Extremely personal note on dinner napkin, handwritten in pencil.

    * Account summary from Fidelity Investments for the chief's wife.

    MAYOR VERA KATZ

    * Trader Joe's "Happy Holidays" paper bag.

    * Several issues of The Oregonian.

    * Several issues of The Washington Post National Weekly Edition.

    * A copy of U.S. Mayor (a monthly magazine devoted to mayors).

    * A copy of TV Click. Someone has marked several programs in red, including Wargame: Iraq, Simulated National Security Council meetings, MSNBC; Everwood: Ephram tries to revive his mother's Thanksgiving traditions, KWBP; CSI Miami: A dead man is found hanging from a tree, KOIN; Life with Bonnie on KATU; The West Wing on KGW; The National Dog Show on KGW; Figure skating: ISU Cup of Russia, ESPN; Biography: "Audrey Hepburn, the Fairest Lady," A&E: Figure skating: ICE WARS: USA vs. The World, KOIN.

    * Several issues of the Portland Tribune.

    * Daily Journal of Commerce from Dec. 3, 2002.

    DISTRICT ATTORNEY MIKE SCHRUNK

    * Empty containers and wrappers: Cozy Fleece Baby Blanket, Bee Cleaners, Nibblets Corn and Butter, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Fred Meyer unflavored gelatin, Burger King beverage cup and straw, possible Chinese takeout (lots), Dreyer's Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream, Skippy peanut butter (creamy), Land's End, Fred Meyer green beans, Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder with 100-watt bulb inside, Meier & Frank, Jelly Belly jelly beans, Foster Farms boneless and skinless Oregon chicken thighs.

    * Coffee grounds.

    * Used pekoe tea bags, many.

    * Used Christmas napkins, used Kleenex, used Q-Tips.

    * Remains of Thanksgiving turkey carcass, drumstick intact.

    * Remnants of roast beef.

    * Soiled baby diapers.

    * Plastic bags containing dog poo, very clean, with some blades of grass (2).

    * Bag of dryer lint.

    * Christmas wrapping paper.

    * Orange peels, empty Millstone coffee bag, containing two very ripe but uneaten bananas, two half-eaten loaves of wheat bread.

    * Disposable razors.

    * Remnants of peanut M&Ms bag.

    * Energizer AA batteries (2), wrapped in plastic bag.

    * Shopping lists.

    * Baseball cap with crustacean emblem: "DON'T BOTHER ME. I'm CRABBY."

    * Baseball cap for Outward Bound.

    * Baseball cap with embroidered green fish.

    * Military khaki shirts with "SCHRUNK" embroidered on pocket and collar (4).

    * Jacket, olive drab, with fading stencils of "USMC" and "Schrunk."

    * Yellow Post-it note with sample of someone's arithmetic: The addition is successful (54 + 32 = 86), but the long division of 32 divided by 6 comes up a little bit wide, at 5.4.

    Gross Violation
    Officer Gina Hoesly has long had less privacy than the average cop, thanks to the Portland Police Bureau's rumor mill.

    Hoesly (below), 34, has dated rock musicians, other cops and Portland Trail Blazers. She's had breast implants and once posed for a photo on a website selling motorcycle gear--badpig.com--showing plenty of skin. In 1996, she won a $20,000 settlement from the bureau in a sexual-harassment claim based on behavior by her co-workers. But none of that comes close to the scrutiny she received in March, when fellow officers rifled through her garbage. The evidence they found led to her indictment on charges of possessing ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine.

    Hoesly, a 13-year police officer who occasionally was an undercover decoy in police prostitution stings, became the subject of an investigation early this year, when she told police she'd been assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Joshua David Rodriguez. Rodriguez has a history of drug arrests and convictions, and when officers booked him on assault charges, they found meth in his pocket.

    Subsequently police began investigating Hoesly, hearing rumors from police informants that she had used drugs. On March 13 at 2:07 am, narcotics officers Jay Bates and Michael Krantz took her garbage. The order to do so came from Assistant Chief Andrew Kirkland, who dated Hoesly in the early '90s.

    Searching through her trash back at Central Precinct, they found traces of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia. They also found a bloody tampon. They sent a piece of the tampon to the state crime lab, where forensics experts tested it for drugs, DNA and, for reasons that remain unclear, semen. The results of those tests have not been released.

    The police didn't seek a search warrant to take Hoesly's trash because, as the Multnomah County District Attorney's office conceded, officers didn't at the time have sufficient evidence to convince a judge to issue a warrant. But once they had drug residue from Hoesly's trash, officers were able to persuade Judge Dorothy Baker to issue a search warrant for Hoesly's house. Inside, they found more paraphernalia and a diary that described apparent drug use. An indictment was issued in June.

    Hoesly, who is currently on medical leave and at the time of her arrest was in the process of medically retiring, pleaded not guilty and hired criminal-defense lawyer Stephen Houze. Like a Labrador smelling leftover turkey, Houze promptly zeroed in on the grabbing of her garbage. He argued that under Oregon's Constitution, privacy rights extend to someone's trash--at least until it's picked up by trash haulers. The used tampon "goes to the heart of just what an outrageous violation of privacy rights this police search was," Houze said. "If the police will do this to a police officer, who won't they do it to?"

    Not only that, he said, but if garbage is up for grabs, "There will be identity thieves lining up out there on every garbage day, knowing they can [take trash] with impunity."

    The Hoesly case is not unprecedented. In 1997, police poked in the trash of David Peters, a star prosecutor for Multnomah County, and found cocaine residue, which was used to obtain a search warrant. Unlike Hoesly, he was not indicted; instead, he was fined and allowed to enter court diversion to maintain a clean record.

    In a hearing on Dec. 10, Judge Jean Kerr Maurer agreed with Houze, issuing a ruling that said the cops' taking of trash was illegal. Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonnell immediately said his office would challenge the ruling. --NB

    Big Brother's in Your Trash Can

    The government is essentially going through your trash every day, says Evan Hendricks, publisher of Privacy Times, a Washington, D.C., newsletter. "They just don't have to get their hands dirty.

    In the past 16 months, thanks to measures contained in the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and the creation of the Total Information Awareness office, our government has turned into a bad Oliver Stone movie--you know, where a cabal of conservative spooks takes over and suddenly Big Brother is in charge.

    No longer do the Feds need to meet the evidentiary standard of "probable cause" to initiate an investigation or start amassing information on you. Nor do they need to show any evidence of a link to terrorism. All they need to do, in short, is say they find you suspicious. They don't need to tell a judge why.

    "This administration really represents a combination of Reaganism and McCarthyism--though they're not chasing Communists, they're chasing people that they call 'terrorists,'" says Hendricks, who grew up in Portland. "They're expanding their power and intimidating people to sort of go along or be afraid of being accused of being soft on terrorism."

    The October 2001 enactment of the USA Patriot Act opened the door to domestic and Internet surveillance, as well as warrantless, covert "sneak and peek" searches. Then, on Nov. 19, 2002, Congress approved the Homeland Security Act, which Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) called the "most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act in its 36-year history."

    The HSA also created the Total Information Awareness office, whose logo, taken from the back of the dollar bill, is of a pyramid with an eye on top, looking down at the globe. Headed by Iran-Contra co-conspirator Admiral John Poindexter, the agency will "mine" commercial databases, including magazine subscriptions and book purchases, to spy on American citizens. It plans to use this information to profile likely terrorist supporters; it also wants to deploy video camera and facial-recognition surveillance systems.

    "The Pentagon basically wants to knock down the walls to all private-sector records and plug into them," says Hendricks. "And trash is like a microcosm of what you get: the bills people pay, what they buy at the store, the packages they throw out. The government is proposing more systematic surveillance of databases that have the same information."

    How do they define who is a likely terrorist supporter? Sorry, but that's a secret. Attorney General John Ashcroft has given federal agencies free rein to reject information requests, with the assurance that his Department of Justice would defend the agencies no matter what.

    Civil-liberties advocates point to the inherent danger in granting the government such sweeping power. Declassified documents have shown myriad abuses by law-enforcement agencies involved in domestic spying in the '60s, '70s and '80s, including in Portland. In 1997, a Washington, D.C., police official used video surveillance of people coming and going from a gay bar to try to blackmail married men. And studies of camera systems in Britain found that they were used to target minorities for increased police attention, while women caught on camera were often targeted for voyeuristic reasons, with male camera operators panning over them for purposes of ogling.

    Small wonder that even conservatives such as Rep. Dick Armey, Sen. Charles Grassley and New York Times columnist William Safire are going ballistic. Attorney General Ashcroft is "out of control," and the federal government has "no credibility" on protecting individuals' privacy, said Armey, who has even volunteered to do consulting work for the ACLU on privacy issues upon his retirement.

    "You Are a Suspect" was the title of Safire's Nov. 14 column on the Total Information Awareness program, which he called a "supersnoop's dream" and a "sweeping theft of privacy rights." --NB
  • by wherley (42799) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:03PM (#4990833)
    here [koin.com]
  • by Auckerman (223266) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:06PM (#4990851)
    In CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988) [findlaw.com], the Supreme Court ruled police could do this. I happen to agree with this. By putting it on the curb, you have shown that you want the city to come and take it away. In other word you want the city to have it.

    As far as the city getting annoyed at the journalists, they can be annoyed, but I doubt there is much they can do about it, for much the same reason that the police can rummage though trash.
  • Re:Fraud? (Score:2, Informative)

    by John Hurliman (152784) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:09PM (#4990871) Homepage
    Yes, but you can buy a good paper shredder (the kind that dices it up into little squares) for pretty cheap these days.
  • by MacAndrew (463832) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:15PM (#4990910) Homepage
    I could swear we did this a few weeks ago, but I can't get the slashdot search engine to perform.

    The police or anyone can take trash at curbside, as it is considered abandoned. CA v. Greenwood [cornell.edu]

    It gets stickier in the "curtilage" area of the property left open to trash collectors to come in for the garbage. See Greenwood. IIRC curb versus curtilage was the distinction in this Oregon case between the two trash takings?

    Warrant is otherwise required unless a 4th A. exception applies such as exigency or evanescent evidence. (If these interest you, do a search or try nolo.com. :)

    States or local authorities can set the 4th Amendment bar higher if they like, that is they can require greater restraint. I don't know of any that have done so offhand -- perhaps yours.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:21PM (#4990953)
    Once, when we were working on a Hispanic drug dealer case, we sent in a warrant to look for drug dealer supplements in his garbage (half-used joints, cloth with coke residue on it, etc.). It didn't get approved for two weeks (due to nothing but slow buereaucracy) and as a result this drug dealer was able to get away with three murders in the mean time.

    Would you want the blood to be on your hands because you didn't go and grab the garbage after the judge didn't approve it quickly enough?

    I doubt it, and if you do then you certainly have what it takes to be a policeman in an area where you need a search warrant for everything.

    Also, a barely went over point in this article is that almost all the states allow police to do various searches without warrants. You should check the laws in your own state and contact your local representative if you have a problem with any of these laws.
  • Re:Small Difference (Score:2, Informative)

    by dtrent (448055) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:22PM (#4990960)
    Yeah. The difference being that the police doing it violates the 4th Amendment to the Constitution if they did it without a search warrant, while the reporters may have violated your right to privacy.

    Wow, you sound really confident about that, want to cite a source? Oh, right, you can't.

    This issue was put to bed in California vs. Greenwood [fightidentitytheft.com].

    It's perfectly legal for police to rummage through your trash, even on a whim. What I don't get is why some braniac would put potentially incriminating evidence out on the curb in the first place.
  • NYC (Score:3, Informative)

    by MacAndrew (463832) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:25PM (#4990977) Homepage
    Until a moment ago I *thought* NYC sanitation workers were well paid. It's a difficult job and a fairly expensive place to live. Not so -- $30-48k [nyc.ny.us].
  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:27PM (#4990988)
    Garbage is up for grabs. There is nothing illegal about digging through garbage.

    The issue here was the length at which the Police Investigation by Portland PD went to find the police officer guilty.

    Let me try to remeber this all.

    Female Officer dated Male Officer in the early 90s. Female Officer has done some cheesecake shots for biker websites, recent boyfriend has had some questionable narcotics dealings. Guy heading internal investigation is Male Officer from the early 90s. Female Officer is on her way out of PPD on medical. Internal Investigation find nothing, so PPD and DA decide to dumpster dive. They take tampons in for drug testing, find traces of coke and pot, bust Female Officer.

    Judge goes apeshit when he finds out they drug tested blood from a tampon, DA whines, WWeek dives in dumpsters of DA, Mayor, Police Chief. DA is amused, Chief is pissed and Mayor about has a stroke.

    http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/shred_supreme_ co urt.html

    California vs Greenwood
    No. 86-684

    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    486 U.S. 35
    January 11, 1988
    May 16, 1988

    "The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home."

    "Since respondents voluntarily left their trash for collection in an area particularly suited for public inspection, their claimed expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items they discarded was not objectively reasonable. It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left along a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public. Moreover, respondents placed their refuse at the curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who might himself have sorted through it or permitted others, such as the police, to do so. The police cannot reasonably be expected to avert their eyes from evidence of criminal activity that could have been observed by any member of the public."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:30PM (#4991004)
    ...once placed on the curb, is the private property of the owner...

    You are only partially correct in that statement.

    Most areas, especially urban, have a small strip of land that starts at the curb and goes onto the property of the owner that is called right of way. It's this right of way that allows a city to go ahead and install a power line pole, or a sidewalk, or a storm drain WITHOUT your permission.

    Most major metropolitan areas have a department (usually under Public Works) that deal with Right of Way Management.

    Now, that being said... if it's on the curb, it's legally considered to be UNWANTED by the owner, and therefore free takings.

    Regardless of WHICH side of the curb it's on.
  • Re:NYC (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:43PM (#4991087)
    Except you missed some things

    1) ~$30,000 for no experience / no skills as a starting wage ain't bad at all. Compare that to ~$15,000 one could expect to make @ $7.50 / hour 40 hour per week employment. $30,000 works out to about $15 /hour.

    2) You missed this one sentence: "... In addition to the basic annual wages, sanitation workers may also earn differential payments based on their specific assignment and overtime..."

    OT is where you make your money in public service.
  • This is legal! (Score:4, Informative)

    by elnerdoricardo (637672) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:45PM (#4991097)
    For all of those people that have waxed on about due process, and Fourth Amendment rights, and private property, and whatever else.. keep in mind that this was already argued at the US Supreme Court level.

    Police have the legal right to search trash without a warrant.

    Here is an exerpt from the ruling:

    1. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home. Pp. 39-44.

    (a) Since respondents voluntarily left their trash for collection in an area particularly suited for public inspection, their claimed expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items they discarded was not objectively reasonable. It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left along a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public. Moreover, respondents placed their refuse at the curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who might himself have sorted through it or permitted others, such as the police, to do so. The police cannot reasonably be expected to avert their eyes from evidence of criminal activity that could have been observed by any member of the public. Pp. 39-43.

    (b) Greenwood's alternative argument that his expectation of privacy in his garbage should be deemed reasonable as a matter of federal constitutional law because the warrantless search and seizure of his garbage was impermissible as a matter of California law under Krivda, [486 U.S. 35, 36] which he contends survived the state constitutional amendment, is without merit. The reasonableness of a search for Fourth Amendment purposes does not depend upon privacy concepts embodied in the law of the particular State in which the search occurred; rather, it turns upon the understanding of society as a whole that certain areas deserve the most scrupulous protection from government invasion. There is no such understanding with respect to garbage left for collection at the side of a public street. Pp. 43-44.

    2. Also without merit is Greenwood's contention that the California constitutional amendment violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Just as this Court's Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule decisions have not required suppression where the benefits of deterring minor police misconduct were overbalanced by the societal costs of exclusion, California was not foreclosed by the Due Process Clause from concluding that the benefits of excluding relevant evidence of criminal activity do not outweigh the costs when the police conduct at issue does not violate federal law. Pp. 44-45.

    182 Cal. App. 3d 729, 227 Cal. Rptr. 539, reversed and remanded.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:46PM (#4991103) Homepage Journal

    You, sir, either work in the worst organized and underfunded police department in North America, or are an outright liar.

    With a suspicion of significant drug dealing, violence, or other such crimes, an officer can normally get a warrant with a radio or phone call. At least that is the case in the Orlando and Toronto areas.

    I knew several officers in Florida, and they always found it amusing when people responded with "get a warrant". They'd just call in for the warrant from the car, another officer would bring it out, and the investigation would proceed. Only in the case of drug dealers/users that might "flush" the evidence were warrant delays an issue.

  • by Osty (16825) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:53PM (#4991139)

    For example, if a cop pulls you over on the road, you cannot refuse a breathalizer exam without automatically losing your license. As such, you effectively don't have the right *not* to give up evidence (since the punishment for not giving up said evidence is just like the punishment for the crime of drunk driving, it becomes a moot point).

    This may be a state-by-state thing, but you can certainly refuse to give a breathalyzer test and still retain your license -- tell the officer to cuff you and take you to the station, where you'll happily give them a blood sample. You're still complying, so they cannot take your license.


    Anyway, you should always refuse a breathalyzer test. The things are hardly accurate at all. You should always force their hand by making them take a blood test. Not only will it be more accurate, but you're giving yourself about an hour more time to help lower your BAC.


    (NOTE: I do not condone drunk driving at all. However, I see no problem with having one or two drinks and then driving later in the evening after those drinks. (obviously depends on body type and composition, as well as tolerance -- one drink may be enough to get some people truly drunk.) Because of the inaccuracies of breathalyzers, even one drink could make you blow legally drunk, even if your BAC is really not at that level.)

  • by Peale (9155) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:10PM (#4991253) Homepage Journal
    Check out the newsgroup alt.dumpster [alt.dumpster], they know a whole lot of the legality of diving in every state.
  • Re:confused... (Score:2, Informative)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:18PM (#4991294)
    I believe the supreme court ruled that once its on the curb, its 'public' property. The reasoning is that if you really didn't want something taken from your trash, you'd dispose of it more throughly.
  • by Doc Hopper (59070) <slashdot@barnson.org> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:28PM (#4991339) Homepage Journal

    • What I haven't seen yet is how the cops are justifying entering the suspect's property to get to the trash to search it.


    Most garbage, and the garbage in question in the article, is left "curbside". Curbside generally includes the sidewalk and everything between it and the street. Although the property is "owned" by an individual who is responsible for its upkeep, it is considered a public right-of-way in all other respects. It's yours, but by purchasing the land you have granted an "easement" to the public utilities and local government to use it. Normal uses include sidewalk maintenance, laying electrical, cable, or telephone lines, and maintaining sewers (although sewers are usually under the street, with a demarcation point within your easement to your individual home). If garbage is not collected from within that easement, usually the garbage collection company requires that you sign a document granting them an easement to enter your property to obtain your refuse.

    In this case the police simply arranged for the regular garbage collectors to pick up the trash as usual, but deliver it to them specially rather than take it to the dump. No question about police entering private property without a warrant -- the garbage had already been picked up and held aside by the workers who are supposed to do it.

    As far as civil rights goes, yeah, it's probably an invasion of privacy for someone to go through your trash. I'd lump it right in there with a credit card company knowing every purchase you make using a card, though.
  • Re:If you... (Score:3, Informative)

    by nuwayser (168008) <pete.tux@org> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:37PM (#4991378) Homepage Journal
    Those countries would be New Jersey and Oregon, the only two states in the US where self-service has been successfully banned.

    From The Western States Petroleum Association [wspa.org]:

    Only two states in the nation -- Oregon and New Jersey -- currently have an outright prohibition on self-serve gasoline sales. Their argument is twofold: first, that the volatile nature of gasoline requires respect and care when refueling; and second, there is an unfounded fear of an unacceptable danger to the public if unskilled consumers are able to dispense their own gas.


    As previously stated, this fear is unfounded. In fact, the insurance industry makes no distinction in risk between self-service and full-serve outlets when assessing the risk of all human activities. Moreover, self-service is statistically safer by a substantial margin than attendant-serve outlets.

    Opposition to self-serve has come from a small percentage of consumers, particularly older people and the disabled who require full-service assistance. The industry recognizes the legitimate concerns of these groups and is willing to work to ensure the availability of full-service at retail outlets. A complete ban on self-serve, on the other hand, is unfair restraint of trade, ignores the wants of the majority, and puts retailers in those locations that ban self-serve at a disadvantage.
  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:09PM (#4991534)
    Those are possibilities, but not probabilities.

    All of these studies only estimate probabilities. Any statement that claims more of them needs to be examined quite closely. Usually it will turn out to be someone oversimplifying to ease the flow of communication, and still get something approximating the correct answer across.

    So single instances (i.e., the results from single subjects) don't provide much certainty. You need a larger database. The noise level is never zero. And probabilistic inferences are almost inevitably required. So, yes, the low probability occurances happen, and skew the data. But they are infrequent, and occur in different directions.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:03PM (#4991748)
    The drunk driving thing is a little different. You have no constitutional right to be able to drive a car on public roads. It is a privledge. If you wish to drive a car on public roads, you are required to be liscenced to do so, and are required to register your vehicle. Now, if oyu get pulled over for drunk driving, you may refuse to take a brethalizer, that's fine, but if you do you will loose your privledge to drive on public roads.

    Now, none of this applies to private land. You may drive with out a lisence, in no regard of a speed limit, and cars that are not normally street legal or liscenced on private land, such as a test track. However, if you want to drive on the public roads, there are things that are required for that privledge and they can be revoked.

    You have no constitutional protection to be able to drive a card.
  • Re:hypocrites (Score:3, Informative)

    by Speare (84249) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @09:05PM (#4991988) Homepage Journal

    Jenna Bush's garbage is more likely to give away info that she gets stoned.

    Jenna Bush: likely drunk,
    Noelle Bush: likely stoned.

    Keep it straight.

  • Re:Fraud? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RetroGeek (206522) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @09:34PM (#4992059) Homepage
    especially if they use the rotating cutter method

    I understand this. But it still CAN be re-constructed. There is a person within the intelligence community whose job it is to verify shredders. You put a blank sheet through, clean the rollers and cutting blades, then pass though a test sheet. This sheet is then collected in its entirety in a bag and send to this person. They then try to re-assemble the test sheet. Consequently I trust very few shredders.

    And the shredder I am talking about has a security rating of TOP SECRET. It cuts and cross cuts, with the resulting cut sized about one/half millimeter by 4 millimeters. This shredder I trust.

    ashes are intact

    Not after I get through mixing them around, burning wood with them, and pouring water on the fire. I do this once a year on the annual camping trip.
  • by Suidae (162977) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @10:17PM (#4992200)
    the mayor STOLE that material

    Only if the current owners were not willing to give it up. And in this specific case, I believe that they'd made their point and were transfering ownership of the papers back to the mayor. Technically one could charge the mayor with petty theft or something, but given the circumstances, it would probably be thrown out. heh.
  • Re:If you... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @10:29PM (#4992234)
    There are two things to consider when discussing teachers' pay:

    1 - Teachers only work 9 months of the year. So when you hear that a teacher makes $26k per year, that actually works out to about $35k if they worked 12 months.
    2 - Overpaying teachers would attract people who are only interested in being a teacher for the wrong reasons (money and 3 months vacation). Underpaying teachers at least ensures that people who do it are doing it because they enjoy it.

    Unfortunate but true.
  • Re:State actor (Score:3, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @11:57PM (#4992441)
    A a citizen of the US, I have the constitutional right to arrest anyone I see fit to arrest. Arrest is not a special right of police officers, but a constitutional right of all citizens.

    In most states you can make a valid citizen's arrest if a public offense is committed in your presence or when you have a reasonable belief that the suspect has committed a felony. In that case you are not a state actor. (The exception: if you're a private security guard and flash a badge at the person that you are arresting, or otherwise fool them into thinking that you are a police officer, you are making the arrest under color of law and are considered under those circumstances to be a state actor.)

    But you cannot detain the person yourself (except for a "reasonable time" and in a "reasonable manner"). You certainly cannot detain the person for purposes of extracting a confession. At some point you will have to hand them over to the state and restrictions on state actors begin to apply at that point. If you dug through their garbage and found drugs, the evidence might be declared inadmissable, maybe not, depending on the judge.

    A case similar to this "garbage" issue was thrown out in the state of Washington in 1991. In that case, a couple was arrested for growing marijuana in their garage after an employee of the electric company alerted the police to their high electricity consumption. [omwlaw.com] The police inspected the records of their electrical usage and obtained a search warrant. The couple were charged and convicted of possession and manufacture of a controlled substance. A lower court dismissed their appeal, holding that the electric company was not a state actor and therefore there was no violation of their protection from illegal search and seizure by the government. This was overturned by the Washington supreme court, which found that:
    1. The electrical company was a municipal corporation with a government granted monopoly, and the employee was acting in his official capacity. Therefore state action was involved and the call invoked the protections against illegal search and seizure.
    2. The couple had a protected privacy interest in their electric consumption records. Under Oregon law police officers cannot obtain electric consumption records unless they submit a written request containing specific facts of a suspicion of individualized criminal activity and a reasonable argument that the information will help determine the truth of the suspicion.
    3. There is no authority for a nosy utility company employee to snitch on customers to the cops. The disclosure had not been done under authority of law. Like phone service and garbage, electrical consumption is a necessary component of modern life. Even though a customer must disclose their identity and power consumption to the power company, the disclosure is for a limited business purpose.

  • Re:hypocrites (Score:2, Informative)

    by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:19AM (#4992616) Homepage Journal
    To point out the fact that the police are over stepping the consititutionally established boundaries of the 4th amendment.

    The fourth amendment has been repealed [epic.org].

  • by Osty (16825) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:34AM (#4992677)

    Are police allowed to test for other drugs in your blood as well?

    Probably, but I have nothing to worry about there.


    In Australia (well NSW anyway), drink driving is a criminal offence that can result in a jail term (up to two years for a high range BAC), so keeping your license is a relatively minor concern.

    DUI in the States is also a criminal offense, but it really takes a lot to actually be put in jail (extremely high BAC is usually not enough -- you either have to be a repeat offender, or kill somebody, but in the latter case you'll be going to trial for vehicular manslaughter). In most cases, you'll lose your license for a month, maybe three, and be required to do a 2 year alcohol treatment program as well as join AA. In some states you may have an ignition interlock fitted on your car (a breathalyzer that won't allow you to start your car if it detects alcohol). The license suspension part is weak, considering that if you refuse both a breathalyzer and a blood test you're going to lose your license anyway for anywhere from six months to a year.


    The cops will try to tell you that you'll lose your license if you refuse a breathalyzer test, but they're bluffing. Same for a field sobriety test (those are even less reliable than breathalyzers!). Don't cave. As long as you submit to a blood test, they will not revoke your license. And the blood test will be more accurate. You may only have a BAC of .075 (well below the legal limit of .08 in most states), but a breathalyzer could show anywhere from a .07 to a .09 even! The blood test will be accurate, and you'll be given at least the ride to the station to metabolize more of that alcohol. And if they do revoke your license, that's okay -- you're going to be getting a lawyer anyway if you're smart, and the lawyer will take care of showing them the error of their ways and getting your license back (well, as long as you retain a competent lawyer, anyway).


    For the record, I don't drive drunk, and I've never even been pulled over for being suspected of DUI. However, I have friends and acquiantances that have gotten DUIs, so I know quite a bit about how the system works in this regard. At least in the US, anyway.


    Then again the breath test isn't what matters, the breath test gets you arrested, then you get a more accurate breath test, and you can then be required to (or ask for, though you then get a bill) a blood test. The blood test is trumps.

    At least here, if you submit to the breathalyzer, that's all the more testing they'll do. Unless you're 110% sure you're going to pass a breathalyzer, you're going to be spending money on this anyway (lawyer fee and/or court fees and fines), so don't balk at the cost of a blood test. It will help you out in the long run and make your legal case stronger if indeed you were under the legal limit. As you said, the blood test trumps, so why would you mess around with anything less accurate?


    One last note -- most states have a "zero tolerance" rule, so if you're under 21 and drinking, please don't drive. All the blood tests and lawyers in the world can't save you, so just be smart and don't do it.

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