Are you asking yourself: “Is Dumpster Diving Legal in Arkansas?” The answer is a little complicated. While the law generally finds that trash no longer belongs to the original owner once it is abandoned, there are other issues in play. Specifically, dumpster diving often involves trespassing on private property. Dumpster diving is defined as the practice of searching through public trash receptacles for edible food or discarded items that retain some use or value. This guide breaks down the legal barriers you face when dumpster diving in Arkansas.
Supreme Court Precedent: Once You Toss It, You Lost It. (Within Limits)
The Supreme Court addressed the legality of dumpster driving in a 1988 case called CALIFORNIA VS. GREENWOOD. The Court determined that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution “does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of the home,” according to a copy of the case at Caselaw. Curtilage means “an area of land attached to a house and forming one enclosure with it.” While this is a criminal case involving a police search, the holding is relevant to anyone interested in dumpster diving. It holds that trash is no longer considered the property of the owner once it is discarded. However, the court also recognizes a difference between looking through trash on a person’s property and on the curtilage surrounding the property.
Be Careful About Not Violating Arkansas Trespassing Laws
You can be cited for trespassing for dumpster diving in Arkansas. but it kind of depends on how law enforcement is feeling that day. It would seem that a citation against dumpster diving should yield no more than a Class B or Class C misdemeanor under Arkansas state law, but those do have some penalties such as $1000 and $500 dollar fines and 90 to 30 days in jail, respectively.
The important factor to consider is the location of the dumpster itself. If you are forced to enter a fence, scale a wall, or go inside a building to access the dumpster, you are likely trespassing.
There are certain defenses that can be raised after an arrest for trespassing:
- You were the owner’s invited guest with permission to be on the property.
- The property was public land or private land open for public use.
- You were on the property to conduct legitimate business or to protect health or public safety
- You weren’t actually aware that you were on private property.
Your mileage may vary with how aggressively trespassing charges are pursued.
Why People Dumpster Dive
Most people dumpster dive out of necessity. Others do it as a hobby or even as a political statement. Divers are on the lookout for:
- Making extra money
- Electronic waste.
Spending enough time on dumpster diving could make for a lucrative side hustle. It can also provide for some basic necessities that many people take for granted. Whatever your reason, be sure to comply with state laws before you consider dumpster diving.