Legal Question in Criminal Law in New York

Your help is greatly appreciated. I have a friend George who owns a home on Long Island, NY and rents his basement to a tenant named Mike. George has a slight suspicion that Mike may be growing marijuana in the basement but according to their contract, George isn't permitted to enter Mike's living space without his permission, which Mike never allows saying he likes his privacy and is also very anti-social most of the time, the reason George thought he didn't want anyone coming down there.

In what instances is George legally required to report suspicion of something like this, since minor signs such as using marijuana for personal use or having a lot of money may not be enough?

What if Mike were doing this and caught by the police but lied and said George was involved or knew about it? What facts or evidence would disprove George's involvement with or knowledge that this was occurring? Will the defense of not knowing because of not being allowed to enter the basement help?

George was told that if suspicious of someone growing marijuana he should check if his electricity and water bills have increased drastically, which they did not. If he presents evidence such as this will it clear him from suspicion of knowing, if it is indeed occurring?

Also, George has a currently unrented additional guest house on the same property but not attached to the main house, would he be safer legally if Mike committed these acts in the guest house or would be there be no difference than it occurring in the basement?

George also needs Mike's rent money to afford the bills, if George decides to overlook suspicious signs, or knows that is is occurring but allows it so he will get his rent, what would be the legal repercussions for each? George has never been involved in any criminal activity, has a clean record, and is a veteran.

Asked on 6/18/13, 3:03 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Philip Katz Fink & Katz, PLLC
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What is the basis for his "suspicion"? The bottom line is that if he has it on good information that marijuana is being grown in his home, the civil liability is tremendous and there could be criminal liability as well. Some of the scenarios that you describe are the reason that George has big trouble ahead of him.

It's not an excuse that George needs money for renting to a person he knows is using the place for criminal activity.

Even if George doesn't know what is going on in his tenant's apartment, if someone gets hurt as a result of his tenant's illicit activities, George can theoretically be sued civilly. As for criminal liability, other than liability for renting an illegal apartment, which has criminal consequences in various regions of New York, I do nto imagine he could be held liable criminally for his tenant's activities if he does not aid, abet, know, or have good reason to know that they are being conducted in his premises.

I recommend that he evict this person immediately and find another tenant.

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7/20/13, 9:24 am

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