Chicago Marijuana Bust Emphasizes Importance of Landlord Consent Issue

Chicago police recently discovered about 7,000 pounds of marijuana in a warehouse in West Englewood. The search conducted by police to find the marijuana raises some questions about a landlord’s ability to consent to police searches of a property.

Details of the Drug Seizure

Chicago Police Narcotics officers went to the warehouse in response to an anonymous tip they received. Police spoke with the owner of the warehouse, who claimed he did not know of any illegal activity going on in the building. The owner cooperated with police and consented to a search of the building.

When police searched the warehouse, they found the marijuana hidden among pallets of cilantro. The 7,000 pounds of marijuana police found have an estimated street value of $20 million.

Landlord Cannot Consent to Police Searches

The police did not report whether the warehouse owner leased the building to others. If the owner did in fact lease the building to others, the owner’s consent to the search may not have been sufficient to allow police to enter.

In general, a landlord cannot give consent to a search of leased premises. In order to be able to consent to a search, a person needs to have “common authority” over the place officers want to search. Common authority means that a person has equal access to or use of the property as others. Illinois courts have said that a property interest, such as the interest a landlord has in a leased property, does not imply common authority over an area.

Exceptions to Landlord Consent Rule

There are some instances where the court will allow evidence into a trial from a search where the landlord has given consent. For example, if police have a reasonable belief based on the circumstances of the situation that the landlord does have equal access to the property and is not just the landlord, the court will allow the evidence.

Also, if the landlord’s lease contains a clause that specifically states that the landlord reserves the right to admit law enforcement personnel on the premises, the court will allow evidence from a search conducted with the landlord’s consent into evidence.

Drug charges are serious offenses and can even rise to the felony level. If you are facing drug charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can fight for your rights.

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