Search of hotel rooms

by | Sep 30, 2013 | Suppression

This entry will deal with the question of whether a person can challenge a search made of his hotel room.

The United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions protect individuals from unreasonable searches of their person, homes, and effects.  Obviously, the question has arisen about whether that constitutional protection applies to a person in a hotel room.  The courts have answered this question not by looking at the type of property searched, but rather whether the person had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place searched.

In order to demonstrate a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place searched, the person must show two things: (1) the person had a subjective expectation of privacy in the area searched, meaning the person believed the area was private, and (2) that subjective expectation of privacy is one society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.  The most basic example of this concept is illustrated with someone’s home: Adam and Ben are neighbors.  Adam has only gone to Ben’s home for brief, social visits.  If the police search Ben’s home and find drugs or other contraband and try to charge Adam for the drugs, Adam could not challenge the search done of Ben’s home because Adam has no legitimate expectation of privacy in Ben’s home.  The courts have routinely held that individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in someone else’s home just because they have been present in that home.

Dealing specifically with hotel rooms, Pennsylvania Courts have held that a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy in a hotel room during the period of time which the room is rented.  A person does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy during checkout or after the rental period has ended.

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