It is important that the roommate of a probationer knows the terms of the probation as well as his own rights.
In this article, we’ll explain more about probation and what a roommate can do to avoid trouble with the probation officer.
What Are My Rights If My Roommate Is On Probation?
The contents of this web page are for informational purposes only, and nothing you read is intended to be legal advice. Please review our disclaimer about law/legal-related information on this website before taking action based upon anything you read or see.
Terms of Probation
When a defendant is placed on probation, he is subject to many orders put in place by the court.
These orders can include:
- a ban on controlled substances (use or possession)
- a ban on alcohol (use or possession)
- the defendant’s submission to substance testing
- that the defendant must stay within the state
- that the defendant get a job or go to school or both
- the ability of the probation officer to visit the defendant’s home or work
- that the defendant consent to a search of person, car, or residence (common areas and the areas the defendant controls)
With regard to the search, the common areas include the living room, bathrooms, garage, study, office, mudroom, laundry room–any room open in the house that is also used by the defendant.
If the defendant fails to comply with the terms of the probation, the probation officer can file a report with the prosecutor/court which will result in a warrant, a hearing, and potential sanctions (like jail or fines) to encourages the defendant to comply.
Keep in mind that there are different levels of supervision ordered, and not all probations include the same restrictions or rules.
The best place to check for the defendant’s terms is to check the official judgment and order of probation.
Do The Terms Of Probation Apply To The Roommate?
Technically, the orders of a court do not apply to individuals who are not named in the court documents.
The roommate does not answer to the probation officer.
However, if the roommate does not also follow some of the terms of the probation, the roommate can cause a lot of problems.
For example, most probations state that defendant’s cannot use or possess alcohol or controlled substances.
If the roommate keeps alcohol or controlled substances (even lawfully with a prescription) in areas that the probationer frequents, or comes into contact with, the roommate might be inadvertently putting the defendant at risk of a violation.
The same is true with firearms, intimate/adult materials, and the electronic equipment, when the defendant has been ordered to stay away from them.
This applies also to items brought into the residence by other people (like if friends came over to have dinner and brought a bottle of wine to share).
Even if the parties (defendant and roommates) take steps to keep those items out of common areas, the probation officer might not allow the defendant to reside in the same residence as others who are possessing or utilizing items that the defendant cannot.
Thus, while the roommate doesn’t have to comply with the probation terms, he (and other visitors) might do so anyway to avoid putting the defendant in jeopardy of a probation violation or losing his housing.
Can The Probation Officer Come Into The Residence Even If The Roommate Says No?
While the exact wording and process differs from state to state, when a defendant is on probation, the probation officer can and will come into the residence without a warrant.
The probation officer generally has authority to search the common areas, as well as areas that the defendant uses and/or controls without a warrant.
This authority generally does not extend to areas that the defendant does not use or control.
Some states might require per the terms of the probation that the defendant give consent to the search, while others might require a warrant in all cases.
Others might just say that the PO can go in, regardless of what the defendant says.
Regardless, if the defendant says ‘yes’ and the roommate says ‘no,’ the probation officer is probably going to perceive that as consent to the warrantless entry and begin his search of the common areas and the areas under defendant’s use or control.
If the defendant says ‘no’ and the roommate says ‘no’ then the probation officer will have to follow the rules and regulations of the state that they are in.
This could mean leaving and returning with a warrant.
This could also mean just coming in anyway, and leaving the validity of the search up to the courts at a later date.
What If I Don’t Consent?
Most attorneys would tell you to firmly and politely tell the officers in very clear language that you don’t consent and you do not give them permission to enter the home, or to go into specific areas of the home.
Need More Information?
If you aren’t sure what the rules are in your state and you have good reason to keep the probation officer from roaming your property, a consult with a local criminal defense lawyer who handles probation violation cases (PVs) or handles constitutional rights cases could be worthwhile.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
Browse our free legal library guides for more information.
You might also like:
- Can a Probation Officer Stop You From Moving?
- Probation vs Bail: The Difference?
- Can You Drink While on Probation For DUI?
- Living With Someone on Felony Probation
- Rights When My Roommate Is On Probation
- Can a Probation Officer Search My Parents’ Room?
- Can a Probation Officer Wait to Violate You?
- Probation Officer vs Police Officer (Compared)
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Probation
- Can You Trade Probation For Jail Time?
- Do First Time Offenders Get Probation?