Probable Cause from a Trash Bin


Items pulled from trash bins that affirm tips involving illegal drug activity can substantiate probable cause to obtain a search warrant, Ohio's high court ruled today.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold the current standards courts use to confirm or deny probable cause.

The case originated in October 2011 when police arrested a Cleveland man for meth manufacturing. After receiving tips from a confidential informant, police narrowed down their search for the meth manufacturer's associate to an exact address.

Police took the trash bin from this residence while it was on the curb and found evidence that corroborated the tips they had received about the illegal drug activity. Officers used this evidence to establish the probable cause they needed to obtain a search warrant, which led to the woman's arrest.

The defendant motioned to have the evidence suppressed, the court granted her request. On appeal, the Eight District affirmed the lower court's decision to suppress the evidence. The state appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court which this morning, reversed the lower court and the appellate courts' rulings. The case will now go back to trial for the remainder of the proceedings.

The Ohio Supreme Court cited Illinois v. Gates in their decision, reminding the courts that evidence must be looked at in totality, rather than in isolation. The evidence from the trash bin should not have been considered jointly with the tips from the confidential informant and other evidence.

You can read more about this case here: State v. Jones.