Police Search Hotel Room Without a Warrant

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27th Nov 2014

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Upholds the Constitutionality of Queen Anne’s County’s Policer Officer’s Warrantless Entry of a Locked-Out Hotel Room at the Request of the Hotel Staff.

In Bordley v. State, 205 Md. App. 692 (2012), the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that when a hotel asserted control over the room for valid and legitimate security reasons after defendant advised that he was no longer occupying it, the defendant did not have a subjective expectation of privacy and the hotel could consent to the warrantless entry and search.

The facts were as follows: the hotel attendant observed two individuals, after one of them refused to provide his name to the attendant, enter a room that was rented under another person’s name. After the individuals left the hotel, the attendant locked them out of the room by changing the entrance combination. The two individuals returned to the hotel and upon finding out that they were locked out, punched the attendant’s kiosk’s window and once again left the hotel.

The hotel attendant called the police, and once at the hotel, she told the officers that no one was in the room because no one had paid for the room that night. The officers knocked on the door, and when they did not receive a response, they entered the room using a key. Once in the room, the police found contraband in their plain view. As one of the officers left the room, he ran into the two men outside of the room and they were arrested. The name on one of their identification cards matched the name on a checkbook inside the room. The police also instructed the hotel staff to open the locked safe in the room, which revealed additional contraband.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the trial court’s admission of the contraband into evidence. The Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not require that the suppression of the evidence. The Court reasoned that although “‘physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed[,]’ [a] motel room can be protected by the Fourth Amendment as much as a home or an office.” But the Court noted that a hotel guest’s enjoyment of reasonable expectation of privacy in his hotel room is limited and lapses when the rental contract lapses, as it had in this instance. Further, the Court held that the hotel staff locked out the room to prevent access to it as a security measure to protect hotel guests and employees. When these two factors combined, they extinguished any reasonable expectation to privacy. For these reasons, the Court upheld the admission of the contraband into evidence.

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