ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Although we’ve all heard that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is it legal to go through someone else’s trash in Illinois?
Most garbage left on the curb becomes public domain once it is left outside of your house, and no longer becomes protected by the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment, which protects U.S. citizens against search and seizure.
A Supreme Court ruling in the 1988 California v Greenwood case held that it is legal to search through trash left in a public space, as long as it does not conflict with a local ordinance.
The portion of a homeowner’s property that includes the sidewalk to the street is considered public property.
However, if you venture onto private property, you could be subject to trespassing or disorderly conduct charges.
There is no Illinois law on the books that prevent dumpster diving, but the state does have a statute that prevents dumping waste on public property, including roadways.