Governor Kim Reynolds will soon get to decide whether to approve a state law that would nullify a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling on “garbage grabs.”
Last summer the court ruled that under the state’s constitution, Iowa residents have an expectation of privacy when they place their garbage in a publicly accessible area — meaning law enforcement has to get a warrant for these kind of trash searches. A bill that passed the House would restore the status quo in Iowa, according to Republican Representative Steven Holt of Denison.
“The searching of abandoned garbage makes our communities safer because numerous crimes are solved each year using this essential law enforcement tool,” Holt said, “and this legislation seeks to restore that important precedent.”
A Clear Lake man who served two days in jail on a drug conviction argued the search warrant for his home was improperly obtained because it was based on evidence police found in trash bags outside his home. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, said the ruling was “a big deal” because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled law enforcement doesn’t have to get a warrant to search trash bags and garbage cans in a driveway or at the curb.
“Now, I’ll acknowledge that reasonable people can and do disagree as to whether Iowa citizens should have a protected liberty interest in their trash,” Wolfe said, “but our Supreme Court is the final arbiter.”
Wolfe said the legislature can’t pass a law and should propose a constitutional amendment to take away this constitutional right,
even one that you may think is silly or ridiculous or doesn’t make any sense or you don’t care if they look through your garbage, none of that matters. Our Supreme Court says this is a constitutionally protected liberty right.”
Holt said the legislature routinely passes bills to legislatively overturn court rulings.
“There has never been an expectation of privacy for abandoned garbage sitting on a curb,” Holt said. “Let’s be clear here, we’re talking about publicly accessible areas, such as curbs and sidewalks. We’re not talking about garbage outside on your back porch and your yard. Publicly accessible area is the key and, again, this legislation is returning us to the status quo.”
The bill passed the Senate unanimously last month and was approved in the House this week on a 58-36 vote.