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Business Law #1 - Case Study Example

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The case happened in the State of California. Respondents were arrested twice and were charged with the felony of narcotics use and narcotics trafficking. The search warrants that led to the arrests of the respondents were based from investigators' prior search of garbage bags from the house of Greenwood in Laguna Beach…
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Business Law #1
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CASE BRIEF: CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD ET AL. 486 U.S. 35 (1988) A. ISSUE The issue in this case is whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.
The case happened in the State of California. Respondents were arrested twice and were charged with the felony of narcotics use and narcotics trafficking. The search warrants that led to the arrests of the respondents were based from investigators' prior search of garbage bags from the house of Greenwood in Laguna Beach. The investigators searched through the rubbish without warrant and found items that are indicative of narcotics use and trafficking. They recited the information that they had from the trash search in an affidavit in support of a warrant to search Greenwood's home.
The California Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the charges against the respondents on the authority of People v Krivade that was decided by the California Supreme Court. In the said case, the California Supreme Court held that warrantless trash searches violate the Fourth Amendment and the California Constitution. The State law of California provides that Californians have the right to privacy in their garbage and cannot be inspected without warrant.
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals. It concluded in accordance with the vast majority of lower courts that have addressed the issue that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home. The U.S. Supreme Court based its decision on a number of similar cases that were already decided. It said that the warrantless seizure of garbage bags left at the curb outside the Greenwood house would violate the Fourth Amendment only if respondents manifested a subjective expectation of privacy in their garbage that society accepts as objectively reasonable.
What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment provisions. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that respondents removed their subjective expectation of privacy when they exposed their garbage to the public that sufficient to defeat their claim to the Fourth Amendment protection. It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left on or at the side of 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 purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who might himself have sorted through respondents' trash or through others, such as the police, to do so. Accordingly, having deposited their garbage "in an area particularly suited for public inspection and, in manner of speaking, public consumption, for the express purpose of having strangers take it, respondents could have had reasonable expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items that they discarded.
The U.S. Court have never intimated that whether or not a search is reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment depends on the law of the particular State in which the search occurs. Read More
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