Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 1pm

Ask the Experts

Rental Reek

Many students smoke pot at college. However, I find myself living with one. What can I do if my roommate is a problem?

This is more than a question, it is a legal, safety and moral dilemma. It may be harder to get rid of your roommate than get divorced in many states. Your roommate is engaged in an illegal activity (possessing or even dealing), interfering with your enjoyment of the apartment, and refuses to stop. Let us consider your possible criminal liability and what you can do about it.

It is no surprise that marijuana use and college life are often intertwined, however there are limits and boundaries especially when sharing a room. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which surveyed 25,400 college students between 18 and 22, one in five admitted to using illicit substances. The actual number could be closer to 40 percent for marijuana use if research is to be believed. If these figures are accurate, it is highly likely that most students will live with or be around somebody that is using drugs or selling them.

Regardless of your involvement, the implications for drug use in your living space can be severe. Even without police involvement, drug-fueled activity or dealing are often causes of wrongful death. This leaves you with a bit of a conundrum, especially if you get on with your roommate. Ideally, you would like them to change their habits, but you do not want to get involved, or worse be implicated, either. Moving out or finding other living arrangements are not always practical.

You could be in trouble if someone else in your room or dorm is selling illicit substances. Anyone doing so puts all users of that shared space at risk. If drugs are stored in places that are equally accessible to all roommates, then police can and will assume that innocent parties are involved in the event of a search. Additionally, the college itself can impose its own disciplinary actions totally independently of local law enforcement.

Constructive possession can presume that a person has some control over contraband while not being in physical possession of it. Drugs stored in a closet in a shared room implies that anyone living there has constructive possession of them. Simply stating that the substances belong to another person but are easily accessible by you is the definition of constructive possession.

If your name is on the lease or rental agreement then anything illegal found on the premises can be attributed to you. Police tend to look for a culpable party and technically there is no law that prohibits being in close proximity to a controlled substance, however it is a risk you are taking. The essential factor in a possession case is establishing that you have knowledge of its existence. Evidence that you know your roommate is using or dealing can be enough to lead to incrimination.

Evicting a roommate is not easy, but if something illegal is going on you can file a police report followed by a restraining order, though you will not be very popular. Landlords do not usually get involved in roommate squabbles but you may get some sympathy from him if he knows what has been going on under his roof.

Either way, you only really have two options, talk to them and try to compromise, or take the legal road.

That is not a drug, it’s a leaf… Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151