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Is it Legal to Dumpster Dive in Las Vegas?

You have likely heard about the people who go around diving into dumpsters behind restaurants or other businesses in search of discarded food. In fact, there is a whole community dedicated to dumpster diving. It is important to know, however, that if you are thinking about scavenging through trash, you might be breaking the law, particularly if you are doing so in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Generally, dumpster diving is legal throughout the United States, except where it is prohibited by local law. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in a 1988 case named California v. Greenwood that when someone throws an item out, it is considered public domain. That being said, if a dumpster is inside an enclosed fenced area or adjacent to a building and it says “not trespassing,” then law enforcement has the authority to question, ticket, or even arrest you if you are caught dumpster diving. In other words, the location of the dumpster itself can result in trespass if you decide to go through its contents.

Typically, unless a city or other local ordinance has explicitly made dumpster diving illegal, law enforcement will not bother someone who is dumpster diving. Unless, of course, someone has called the police, such as a property owner or store manager.

Las Vegas Ordinance

Under local law passed by the city of Las Vegas, Code 9.08.080, it is against the law for anyone other than the owner, the City or a franchisee, or their duly appointed agents to interfere with any container that has solid waste or recyclables in it. It is also against the local ordinance to remove the container from where it is placed for collection by the owner, the City of Las Vegas, or a franchisee. It is also prohibited under the Las Vegas ordinance for any person other than the operator of a drop-off enter—or a duly appointed agent—to remove or interfere with any recyclables from the drop-off center.

In other words, it is illegal to dumpster dive in the City of Las Vegas.

Other Issues With Dumpster Diving

Part of the issue with dumpster diving is that not everyone who is searching through dumpsters is looking for food. In fact, dumpster diving, which is simply foraging through another’s garbage or trash to get discarded materials, is often aimed at stealing a person’s identity. It is not uncommon for different types of fraud and identity theft scams to happen as a result of dumpster diving. Once a person sifting through trash is able to get ahold of a victim’s personal information, he or she can often gain access to even more personal data.

There is a wide range of personal information that can be obtained through dumpster diving of discarded personal materials. These include driver’s license information, dates of birth, handwritten signatures, social security information, bank statements, credit card and account numbers, street addresses, medical information, and much more.

If you or someone you know has questions about Nevada law regarding dumpster diving, or have any other legal question that needs to be addressed, contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Parry & Pfau today.

(image courtesy of Jeremy Thomas)