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It is well established that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public. The proper focus under the Greenwood decision remains whether the garbage was readily accessible to the public so as to render any expectation of privacy objectively unreasonable.
Sioux Falls police received an anonymous tip that Thompson was distributing controlled substances. While surveilling Thompson's residence, police noticed a garbage container in the driveway, located between the garage door and the pedestrian door entrance to the garage. Police then contacted Thompson's garbage collection service to conduct a controlled trash pull. The trash pull revealed drug-related items and a receipt for a storage unit. Based on the trash pulls, as well as information received from an informant, police obtained a search warrant for Thompson's residence, where they found 19 grams of methamphetamine inside a lockbox, $26,063 in cash hidden inside an ottoman, and drug paraphernalia. Police later obtained a search warrant for Thompson's storage unit in Luverne, Minnesota, which contained an additional 115.1 grams of methamphetamine and $36,950 in cash. Prior to trial, Thompson moved to suppress all evidence obtained from the searches, claiming the warrants were based on unconstitutional trash pulls. The district court denied Thompson’s motion to suppress, holding that Thompson did not have an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the trash and that, even without the trash pulls, there was probable cause for the search warrants. Thompson was convicted. On appeal, Thompson challenged the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. Moreover, Thompson claimed that the evidence was insufficient to show that he possessed and intended to distribute methamphetamine.
The Court held that the warrants were not based on unconstitutional trash pulls since defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his trash. The Court noted that the trash was readily accessible to the public, and the garbage container was easily visible from the street. Moreover, there were no barriers preventing access to the container or its contents. Anent the second issue, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient to show that Thompson possessed and intended to distribute methamphetamine. The Court noted that intent to distribute controlled substances may be proved by either direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. Drug quantity and purity level, drug paraphernalia, prior sales, and the presence of cash or a firearm support an inference of intent to distribute. In this case, police found 19 grams of 98.8% pure methamphetamine in Thompson's home and 115.1 grams of 98.9% pure methamphetamine in his storage unit. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent testified that these amounts were consistent with distribution. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction was affirmed.