Question: Are the Police allowed a warrantless entry of a hotel room of an unregistered guest?
Answer: Yes, since the unregistered guest does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the premises.
In 2011, officers were informed that was a person sleeping in a hotel room and was not registered in the room and not supposed to be there. A detective confirmed that the guest registry did not show anyone registered in room 212. A worker at the hotel told the officers that he could let them into the room. At the threshold to the room, the police observed that the door jamb was broken as if it was kicked in or had been kicked in previously. Inside, the officers found a male asleep, so they woke the man and asked him who he was. The man refused to talk to the officers, and they handcuffed him and looked around the room and found photo identification identifying the man as Fox. In a drawer of the nightstand, the officers found a set of digital scales that had a white powder on them. Thereafter, the State charged Fox with several felonies relating to the cocaine found in the hotel room. Fox filed a motion to suppress, but the motion was denied. Fox appealed the court’s denial of his motion.
On Appeal, the court found that the evidence most favorable to the trial court’s ruling demonstrates that Fox lacks standing to challenge the State’s search of the hotel room under either the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. It is well established that a defendant must have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the premises that is the subject of the search before he can challenge the search as unconstitutional. An expectation of privacy gives rise to Fourth Amendment protection where the defendant had an actual or subjective expectation of privacy and the claimed expectation is one which society recognizes. Likewise, to challenge evidence as the result of an unreasonable search or seizure under Article I, Section 11, a defendant must establish ownership, control, possession, or interest in either the premises searched or the property seized. When the constitutionality of a search is challenged, defendant has the burden of demonstrating a legitimate expectation of privacy in the premises searched.
As the United States Supreme Court has held, an overnight guest in a home may claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment, but one who is merely present with the consent of the householder may not. Further, a person’s hotel room is a “home” for Fourth Amendment purposes. Here, the undisputed evidence shows that Fox was an invitee of the hotel manager at the time of the officers’ warrantless entry into room 212. Although Fox construes the manager’s invitation as equivalent to being a registered, overnight guest, his own testimony belies his claim on appeal. At the motion to suppress hearing, Fox acknowledged that he had not paid for a room, that he had told the manager he only needed the room for the day, that he had occupied the room that morning, and that the manager was doing him a favor. To the contrary, Fox’s own testimony, when viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court’s judgment, shows that Fox was merely present in the hotel room with the consent of the hotel manager and that Fox was not an overnight guest in room 212. Accordingly, he does not have standing under the Fourth Amendment to challenge the officers’ warrantless entry into the room. Likewise, he does not have standing under Article I, Section 11. Thus, we affirm the trial court’s denial of Fox’s motion to suppress. 983 N.E.2d 1165 (Ind.App. 2013).