New garbage search law likely to face court challenge

DES MOINES — One of the new laws that took effect on Friday July 1st will allow police to search through a person’s garbage for criminal evidence without a warrant, but the new law is at odds with an Iowa Supreme Court decision last year that said the search of a Clear Lake man’s trash without a warrant was an invasion of his privacy.

Drake University law professor Bob Rigg says that decision stands despite the new law. “Essentially the Iowa legislature cannot overrule the Iowa Supreme Court in interpreting what the Iowa Constitution is,” Rigg says.

Rigg says the issue is likely to end up back before the Iowa Supreme Court, which will soon have a new member. Rigg says a new justice could change the court’s perspective on illegal search and seizure.  “We don’t know, that can shift to a 4-3 the other direction, but right now State v Wright is the law regarding search and seizure in Iowa of trash,” he says. 

A new Supreme Court Justice will replace retiring Justice Brent Appel who was part of the majority in the previous case. That new member could make a difference in the garbage searching decision.