Utahns have no right to privacy when it comes to their trash, the state Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Federal courts have always held that once trash cans hit the street, their owners cannot expect any privacy. But a defense attorney in Provo hoped state appellate judges would find Utah's constitution offers more protection.Attorney Thomas H. Means argued framers of the state's highest law - who were Mormon settlers "persecuted" by federal agents cracking down on polygamy - had a heightened appreciation for privacy rights.

The pioneers suffered warrantless searches and night raids by the agents and therefore built into the Utah Constitution a higher standard when it comes to privacy, he said.

Means, representing three people convicted of marijuana possession, suggested that sensitivity extended across the century into trash cans of the day.

Appeals judges disagreed, though they complimented Means for his thorough and scholarly efforts to push them to an "innovative" interpretation of the law.

"We must reject (Means') argument concerning Utah's unique history. . . . Simply stated, there is no articulated or logical link between the unique experience of suspected pioneer polygamists and contemporary society's notions about municipal garbage collection," wrote Judge Gregory K. Orme.

Means was hoping the higher court would overturn the convictions of his clients Brent Jackson, Raquel Nielsen and Patricia E. Smith. The trio was ordered to serve 36 months probation after police searched their home in June 1994 and found illegal drugs.

The search was based on an earlier "trash cover," in which officers plucked garbage out of the home's cans once they were taken to the street for pickup by the city.

In that rummaging, police found marijuana stems and seeds, a marijuana cigarette and "Zig Zag" papers used for rolling cigarettes - evidence that helped them obtain a search warrant for the home.

The "trash cover" technique leads to hundreds of police searches throughout Utah every year that result in convictions.