In another case, an Army sergeant (E5) knocked on the accused's door in the barracks. The
accused opened the door, at which time the sergeant asked him why the door was locked (it was a
violation of a company policy). The accused took a cellophane package out of his pocket and dropped
it out of the window. This "voluntary act of attempting to rid his person of the packets of heroin resulted
in abandonment of these illegal substances." U.S. v. Weckner, 3 MJ 549 (ACMR, 1977).
An abandonment must be voluntary. Discarding evidence in response to unlawful police conduct
will not result in an abandonment. U.S. v. Robinson, 6 MJ 109 (CMA, 1979). "When an arrest is
unlawful...and an accused's disposition of an item was a response to that unlawful pressure, the
accused retains a possessory right in the item entitling him to have it suppressed as evidence." U.S. v.
Swinson, 48 CMR 201 (AFCMR, 1974). If there is an illegal apprehension or seizure, then, an
abandonment will not result therefrom. U.S. v. Foster, 11 MJ 530 (ACMR, 1981). This prevents the
police from benefiting from their illegal activities and, therefore, serves the purpose of deterring them
from violating the law.
In California v. Greenwood, 56 L. W. 4400 (1988), the police in Laguna Beach, California, asked the
neighborhood trash collector to pick up the garbage bags that the defendant had left on the curb in front
of his house. The police also asked the trash collector to turn the bags over to the police without first
mixing their contents with the garbage from any other houses. The defendant objected to the search,
but the Supreme Court held there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in the garbage:
"We conclude that (defendants) exposed their garbage to the public sufficiently to defeat
their claim to Fourth Amendment protection...(The defendants) placed their refuse at the
curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who
might himself have searched through (it) or permitted others, such as the police to do so.
Accordingly, having deposited their garbage in the area particularly suited for public
inspection... for the express purpose of having strangers take it, (defendants) could have
no reasonable expectation of privacy in the...items they discarded...The police cannot be
expected to avert their eyes from evidence of criminal activity that could have been
observed by any member of the public.
c. The Precipitous Bailment. A "bailment" is simply where one loans his property to another for a
period of time (as distinguished from giving it away altogether). Sometimes, instead of abandoning
property, an accused will toss it to an accomplice or friend, attempting to avoid detection by the police.
This is essentially what happened in Rawlings v. Kentucky, 65 L. Ed. 2d 633 (1980). There, police
arrived at a residence to apprehend an individual for drug offenses. Several other persons were in the
house at the time. A police officer had one of the individuals empty her purse, which resulted in the
seizure of various drugs. As she emptied her purse, she told the defendant to take what was his. At
this point, the accused claimed ownership of all of the drugs found in the purse. At trial, he tried to
suppress the drugs, claiming they were illegally seized from the purse.