Idaho murders: Why did cops NOT need warrant to search Bryan Kohberger's trash? Expert weighs in
This article is based on sources and MEAWW cannot verify this information independently.
MOSCOW, IDAHO: The arrest of Bryan Kohberger for the murders of four University of Idaho students has raised a slew of unanswered questions surrounding how investigators collected DNA evidence by searching the trash belonging to the suspect’s family. Many people are even questioning if police acquired any warrant to search the trash.
The 28-year-old PhD student, who is currently at the Latah County Jail, was arrested and charged with the brutal murders of Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, who were stabbed to death on November 13, 2022, in their off-campus rental home on King Road in Moscow. He was arrested in Pennsylvania, where he made his first court appearance on January 5, 2023. On the same day, the officials released a probable cause affidavit that laid details about the evidence that helped police arrest Kohberger.
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In the affidavit, the officials noted that the DNA found on a knife sheath recovered from the crime scene linked Kohberger to the murders. They said a team of investigators raided Kohberger's parents' home in Albrightsville, seized evidence, and arrested him. From the suspect’s residence, they also “stole” trash, which helped them acquire his DNA samples.
The samples they collected from his parental home matched the sample discovered on the knife sheath. "A DNA profile obtained from the trash and the DNA profile obtained from the sheath identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father of Suspect Profile," read the subsequent DNA report given in the affidavit, according to Newsweek.
Did the police need warrant to search through trash?
Following the release of the probable affidavit, many people wondered if the investigators required any warrant to search the Kohberger family’s trash. "It became known in the Kohberger case that the police went through the trash to get DNA evidence. Do the police need a warrant to do that?” an unidentified individual asked KREM 2. Reflecting on the question, the outlet confirmed that police needed no warrant to search through Kohbergers' trash.
As per reports, police do not need a warrant to search the suspect’s trash, as long it’s outside of their home. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unjustified government searches and seizures. But in California vs Greenwood, the Supreme Court determined that trash left for pick up outside of your home isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment. Some states have tougher rules, so it may depend on where the search is conducted, however, this was not a concern in Kohberger’s case.
“Pennsylvania and Idaho, the two states involved in this particular case, they do not have anything above and behind the Supreme Court’s consideration of no warrant, in other words, law enforcement in Idaho and Pennsylvania can generally search your trash so long as it’s been put outside,” said Wayne Unger, JD, Gonzaga University Visiting Assistant Professor of Law.
”The Supreme Court has ruled in a case called California vs Greenwood, back in 1988, that a warrant is not required at all to search through somebody’s trash, assuming that trash has been like put out for pick up,” Unger added. The placement is critical in this case. Police do not need a warrant if the trash is left for collection outside one's home. But if the garbage is inside the suspect's house or garage, the cops will require a warrant.
So when it comes to Kohberger, who reportedly left his trash bag in his neighbor’s garbage can, Unger said police were allowed to search the trash without any warrant. ”Law enforcement in this particular case in Pennsylvania acted lawfully and constitutionally when it collected the DNA from the parent’s trash can,” he explained.