Last week we talked about a group of search warrants that were executed at Missouri State University on suspicion of drug charges. In one of those cases a suspect’s roommates allowed law enforcement officials to search their bedrooms that were attached to a common area.
This raises some questions for people who live in a shared residence like an apartment or a duplex. What happens if your roommate has contraband like an illegal weapon or drug paraphernalia? What if he or she sells drugs out of your living room? Could you face criminal charges if you haven’t actively broken the law but live under the same roof?
The answers to these questions are complicated but there are a few potential legal snares in this situation. First, your home and possessions may be vulnerable to a police search if they are able to establish probable cause and get a warrant for your property. So even if you had no part in the drug offenses that may trigger the warrant, there is a risk that law enforcement officials may discover something else.
There is also the concept of “constructive possession,” which refers to any kind of control a person has over the place where drugs are found. This means roommates can potentially be charged with drug possession if drugs are kept in common areas of the house.
If you have concerns about activities taking place on your property it can be difficult to know where to turn, particularly if you are in a situation where violence could be a possibility, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Consider meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you protect yourself.
Source: The FindLaw Blotter, “If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested?” Maryam Ansari, March 21, 2013
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