Posted in Drug FAQ'S on December 23, 2016
Living with roommates can be a source of drama, even if there aren’t any serious legal issues involved. From arguments regarding overnight guests to differing standards regarding apartment cleanliness, navigating shared living space with another person can be a challenge.
These disputes go from trivial to much more serious, however, if your roommate gets involved in illegal activity such selling drugs or using illegal drugs and/or keeping them in your house or apartment. If you find yourself in this sort of situation, it’s important to understand how your roommate’s illegal behavior can impact you.
Can you face legal problems as a result of your roommate’s illegal drug use? Although all situations are unique due to any number of underlying factors, the short answer is yes. It’s quite possible that your roommate’s illegal behavior can cause legal problems for you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
To begin with, having your roommate involved in illegal activity such as drug use automatically increases the chances of the police searching your home or apartment. If the police show up with a search warrant, it likely won’t be limited to just your roommate’s bedroom or belongings. They will probably search the entire premises, including your room and belongings. If police find drugs, especially if they’re found in a common area – or worse, among your belongings – they could arrest you.
You may have to go to court to prove the drugs the police found didn’t belong to you. In this situation, police can arrest a person under the legal concept of constructive possession, and it essentially means that you in some way had control over the shared living space, so you share responsibility for the illegal contraband the police found there.
It’s also possible that if you helped your roommate in his or her illegal drug use in any way – hiding drugs, for example, or accompanying your roommate on a pick up or delivery (even if you just drove and waited in the car) – you could find yourself facing charges of criminal conspiracy for your involvement in illegal activities. So, yes, your roommate’s illegal drug use can cause a host of legal problems for you.
If your roommate is illegally using or dealing drugs, it may seem tempting and very easy to simply ignore it, especially if the issue isn’t affecting your daily life. But even if you’re not involved, the fact that you’re even aware of the illegal drug activity means it’s quite likely that, sooner or later, your roommate will get caught and you could find yourself in legal trouble. Ignoring the problem, easy as it may seem to do, really isn’t in your best interests.
Of course, protecting yourself legally shouldn’t be your only concern – or even your first one. Illegal drugs and violence tend to go hand-in-hand. Just because you haven’t witnessed any violence related to your roommate’s illegal drug use doesn’t mean that it’s not a distinct possibility. If the legal risks don’t inspire you to take action, the chances of physical danger certainly should.
To protect yourself from a drug-dealing or drug-using roommate, be proactive. You can notify your landlord – who also likely faces legal risks from your roommate’s behavior – or the police. The Department of Justice has resources for people who want to report illegal drug activity.
Of course, if you’re hesitant to report your roommate or you feel that’s not a safe option, you can move. Moving may be a challenge, especially if you’re on a long-term lease or don’t want to give up a great deal on rent. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons in a situation like this. Do you want the hassle of moving – or the infinitely more damaging hassle of being arrested?
If you find out about your roommates illegal activities too late, contact a Riverside criminal defense attorney for guidance. Free consultations are available through The Law Offices of Graham D. Donath.