i. Facts: Local police suspected defendant was dealing drugs from his residence. Because the police did not have enough evidence for a warrant to search his home, they searched the garbage bags defendant had left at the curb for pickup. The police uncovered evidence of drug use, which was then used to obtain a warrant to search the house. That search turned up illegal substances, and Greenwood was arrested on felony charges.
ii. Holding: Garbage placed at the curbside is unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.
iii. Reasoning: There was no reasonable expectation of privacy for trash on public streets "readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public." The Court noted that the police cannot be expected to ignore criminal activity that can be observed by "any member of the public."
iv. Brennan’s Dissent: A trash bag is a common repository for one’s personal effects and should inevitably be associated with an expectation of privacy. The possibility that meddlers might rummage through the trash should not negate the expectation of privacy.
v. Note: It is important to note that the SC has not yet ruled on a case where the garbage was still inside the curtilage of the home.