Is an illegal substance found while a landlord was in a renter’s house without permission, admissablein court?

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Is an illegal substance found while a landlord was in a renter’s house without permission, admissablein court?

He later told cops that he was fixing a water heater but without tools or parts. TMy landlord then broke into a locked bedroom and found marijuana. He called the cops. I am now facing felony charges. My landlord then stole over $10,000 of my personal belongings, that took me over 10 years to acquire. I had to sell everything that was left and now I am homeless. My landlord has several different accounts of the story. None of them are the same. Is there a chance this could get dropped or dismissed in court? Could I sue him?

Asked on April 24, 2011 under Criminal Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) The protections against unreasonable searches only applies to police action. If a private citizen--for example, a landlord--obtains evidence in some improper or even illegal fashion (e.g. breaking it) and then turns it over to the police, then it is admissible--so long as the landlord was not doing it at the police's behest or on their instructions.

2) However, the fact that the evidence may be admissible does not protect the landlord from his own bad acts. If he stole from you, you may simultaneously sue him to recover compensation and also report him to the police for theft. Note that if he stole from you at the time he found the drugs, that may help impeach or weaken his testimony--it may look more like he was doing that to excuse or cover up his own wrongdoing. Therefore, taking action against your landlord may help you.

You should however, before doing anything and IMMEDIATELY, consult with an attorney who can evaluate the situation in detail and in confidence and advise you.


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