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You can't always control what your family, friends, or roommates bring into a car, shared property, or a home that you own. But what is your responsibility to stop them – and can you get in trouble?
The short answer is yes. If someone brings drugs into your home you can get in trouble.
Below you can find general information about drug possession laws, which vary by state, but keep in mind that none of it should be considered legal advice. If you are concerned about a roommate, family member, or friend bringing drugs into your home, contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.
For the police to ask questions, enter your home, or search your car, they first need probable cause that something illegal is happening. If they search your home or property without cause, you can argue in court to have the evidence they found thrown out.
The basics are:
You have civil rights against unlawful search and seizure. Learn more about your rights during:
Let's say law enforcement finds drugs on your property but not in your possession. Where drugs are found matters. The government will build a case against you depending on whether they believe the facts point to you having "constructive possession" of the drugs.
Constructive possession law can vary by jurisdiction, but it essentially means that you had the right to exercise physical control over the drugs and knew that you had this right.
In other words, you can still be arrested for possession and found guilty, even if you were not using the drugs or had them on your person at the time of your arrest.
If you are around drugs, you may be arrested or ticketed to appear in court if law enforcement does not believe that the drugs aren't yours.
If arrested, you have the right to say you need a lawyer and stay silent about the situation. Don't resist arrest. Remember that you don't have to provide any information the prosecution can use against you or accept a plea deal until you have spoken with a lawyer.
It is possible in some jurisdictions that a homeowner or car owner in this situation could not be arrested but still ticketed. You could also be ticketed for being on a lease or a partial property owner – even if you weren't home when the incident happened.
The best time to explain your side of the story is the first time you speak with your attorney.
When anything illegal happens, the person with immediate control of the car or property will be held responsible. This is similar to the "social host" laws for underage drinking or people driving drunk from your home.
Police may look at the home or car owners as a suspect unless they can prove:
A drug's location in a house or car, such as the passenger side of the backseat, might indicate that it was more likely to belong to a passenger or roommate.
In a criminal case, the government will try to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so any evidence that creates doubt is key to a criminal case.
You can call the police and ask them to break up the party if you feel that you can't control the situation. This has its risks, so you should weigh the pros and cons.
You may feel like the best option is pulling up a photo, pointing to the person who owns the drugs, and giving the police their information. But there is no guarantee this will keep you out of trouble.
This might be a valid choice if your attorney advises it. However, the police often hear the defense that "the drugs aren't mine." The government may not believe you or believe you knew about the drugs because you know who brought them.
Another option is to explain you can't have anything illegal happening in your car or home because you will be the one who gets in trouble.
You can ask the person you suspect has drugs to leave.
People are obligated to leave your property when you ask, or it will be trespassing. You can consider recording yourself on camera asking everyone to stop or leave your property.
It may feel uncomfortable to bring up another person's drug use. But being around drugs or having them in your home or car can lead to significant legal risk.
Call an attorney if you find drugs in your furniture, drawers, or home later. Disposing of them yourself has its risks, so your safest option is to call an attorney first.
Illegal drugs in your home or car are incredibly risky. Hosts can take the fall for illegal activities -- so be prepared for any scenario.