The defense community is abuzz with a major privacy case that just got handed down by the Oregon Supreme Court. In State v. Lien, 364 Or. 750 (2019), police officers discovered incriminating drug-related evidence in defendants’ garbage by having a sanitation company manager specially pick up defendants’ garbage bin on trash pick-up day, transport it to the sanitation company’s facilities, and turn it over to the officers, who then searched the bin. After the trial court denied their motions to suppress that evidence, defendants were convicted on drug-related charges. The Court of Appeals affirmed those convictions, concluding that, although defendants retained protected possessory and privacy interests in the garbage while their bin rested at the curb, the police did not violate their interests by taking possession of the bin and searching its contents, because defendants had lost their interests when the sanitation company picked up their garbage bin. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed, holding that defendants retain protected privacy interests in their garbage under Article I, section 9, which the police invaded when they searched defendants’ garbage bin without a warrant.
Ryan Scott made an excellent point about this case, calling it “another knife in the heart of the third-party doctrine.” If you’ve got a case where the state subpoenas your client’s private information from a third-party, he suggests, “whether it’s the name and home address associated with his IP address or her bank records or anything else a reasonable person would expect to be private, move to suppress for their failure to get a search warrant.”