1. Home
  2.  - Wills and Probate

Can a roommate let the police into your shared apartment?

by | Dec 16, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Living completely on your own isn’t always the best option, especially when you’re young or still developing your career. Many people find truly solitary living lonely, and there are also the costs to consider. Even a one-bedroom or studio apartment might require two jobs if you want to live by yourself.

Taking on a roommate gives you companionship, helps with apartment cleaning and assists with rent. Unfortunately, roommates can complicate your life. The choices that your roommates make could affect not just your enjoyment of your home but also your legal rights in some cases.

If the police suspect you of criminal activity and want to search your apartment, could your roommate let them in and potentially put you in a compromised legal position?

Roommates can open the door to the police

When you cohabitate with someone, they typically have the option of letting people into your shared spaces in your apartment or rental home. They can invite in guests, and they could also open the door to police officers who want to search despite not having a warrant.

Usually, roommates or landlords granting rental home access to police officers without a warrant can only give those officers access to the shared spaces of a rental unit. If, during that search, officers find something that gives them probable cause, they may then be able to justify searching your private spaces or obtain a warrant to search them later. 

If you are home, you can counter their permission

If the police show up while you are not home, your roommate’s permission can give police entry into your shared spaces. However, if you are home when the police come, you can refuse them entry.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that if one tenant denies the police access, then the other one granting them entry does not override the non-compliant tenant’s rights. Although your roommate likely doesn’t want to cause issues for you, many people’s first instinct when faced with the request by the police is to immediately comply. Your roommate may not realize the risks involved with letting the police into your apartment.

Understanding how your roommate’s decisions can affect your legal rights can help you defend against criminal charges.