My friend was arrested for trespassing by not the legal owner, does the legal owner overrule anyone who lives there?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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My friend was arrested for trespassing by not the legal owner, does the legal owner overrule anyone who lives there?

My friend a high school student was arrested for drugs and trespassing on a home by a man who lives there. My friend was visiting a friend who lives there and hasn’t seen in 5 years after moving away. The man is the friend’s stepfather who never met my friend. He believed my friend was doing drugs and threatened drug and trespassing charge if she came back to their house, which she did. So he got her arrested and dismisses the fact to the police that my friend and her stepdaughter were ever friends.

However, the wife disagrees both charges and the home is legally and paid under her name only. The wife knows my friend since preschool, sees my friend like a daughter, say she is always welcome, and tried to have the charges dropped, but to no avail. She is willing to testify and provide evidence that they are friends and she doesn’t believe she is a drug addict since who the drugs belong to is questionable right now. like pictures and memorable art work, how would the wife the legal owner help my friend’s chances at court? Could the wife help my friend chances? Does the wife overrule the stepfather who lives there?

Asked on December 5, 2017 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the stepfather resides there and the wife does not, then even if she is the one who owns the home, if she lets him live there while she does not, she gave possession of the home to him (similar to how a landlord gives possession of a home or apartment to the tenant, even the though the landlord still owns it). The one who has possession controls who may enter the home, so the absentee owner cannot overrule the stepfather: she cannot approve your friend's entrance of a home possesed not by her, but by another, even if she is the owner.
If the wife also lived there at that time, it would be different: since she would also/simultanously have possession, she could allow your friend access or entry.

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