108 Iowa L. Rev. 1437 (2023)



Trash-rip searches are common in police investigations because, under most state constitutions and the Federal Constitution, garbage is not protected against searches and seizures, allowing police to search waste without a warrant. Recently the Iowa Supreme Court cast doubt on the permissibility of these warrantless searches, disturbing years of state and federal precedent. The court applied an originalist analysis, reviving a property-centered search and seizure line of jurisprudence. By changing its course, the court parted ways with federal search and seizure jurisprudence, rendering uncertain the future of trash-rips and other common investigative tactics. Given the recency of the decision, the breadth of the court’s holding is still unclear. In light of this uncertainty, the court should clarify its holding and adopt a two-step analysis: first, treating common law property doctrines as a constitutional floor upon which local legislatures may build, and second, assessing additional privacy protections created by local ordinances. Clarifying the framework in this manner empowers localities to craft custom legal regimes preferred by most citizens while maintaining a necessary baseline of protection for criminal defendants.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023