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Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

Can your roommate let the police in?

You know that you are not obligated to let the police into the house where you live. If they knock on the door and ask to come in, they are seeking consent, but you do not have to provide it. They cannot force entry, unless they have a warrant. Many officers who have not yet gotten a warrant will ask for consent first.

However, perhaps you don’t live alone. You may be worried that your roommate will allow the police to enter, even though you would have denied them entry. Would your roommate have the ability to do this?

Any occupant can give permission

Generally speaking, any occupant of the home can give permission to the police to come inside. They always have the option to offer their consent if they would like to do so. For instance, maybe you’re going to college and living with four other fellow students. All of you have the exact same rights to either deny a search or consent to that search because you are all legal residents of that house.

That being said, if even one person does not consent, they may be able to prevent the police from entering. This is true in cases where other roommates may have provided consent. For instance, perhaps three of you answered the door together. Your two roommates said it was fine for the police to come in, but you asked them to come back with a warrant. They likely still have to do so.

The catch here is that only those who are present at the time the police arrive can make their wishes known. So, if the police simply come to the house while only your roommate is home, then your roommate can allow them to come inside and conduct a search. If you had been home at the time, you could have overridden this consent, but you cannot do it remotely. This could potentially give the police the ability to search your house without your knowledge or permission.

If you do find yourself facing criminal charges and you believe your legal situation is getting complex, be sure you know about all of your criminal defense options.