You know how to interact with police officers if you’re pulled over, stopped on the street, or approached in your own home. But when you’re on vacation and staying in a hotel room, you may not know how to handle an official knock on the door.
Hotel rooms come with conditional privacy rights so it’s important to know where you stand if the police come to your temporary home’s door. In this blog, we guide you through the basics of the reasons police may come to your hotel and the rights you have in this situation.
Common Reasons Officers Knock on Hotel Room Doors
It can be intimidating or even scary to hear a sharp knock followed by, “Las Vegas PD, open up.” This experience can be all the more disorienting if the knock wakes you up or interrupts another activity.
However, it’s important to stay calm. Actions you take while panicked could give the police the wrong idea and lead to a complicated confrontation.
Police officers may come to your door to:
- Ask questions about crimes committed in or near the hotel by another guest
- Conduct a room search based on suspicion of a crime
- Respond to a request made by the hotel to evict a problem guest
- Serve a warrant
You are not required to respond to the police when they knock. In fact, legal experts recommend staying quiet to avoid arousing suspicion that you are trying to leave or get rid of evidence related to a crime.
Expectation of Privacy in Guest Quarters
Because hotel rooms are not personal homes, the reasonable expectation of privacy under the law is more subjective than it would be in your home. For example, you expect housekeeping staff to come in and clean while you’re gone, which might feel like a violation of privacy in your residence.
While staying in a hotel, you can legally expect that no one will enter the room unless given permission or without probable cause. Hotel staff may enter the room in spite of a “do not disturb” sign if they find signs of a serious problem, such as smelling smoke at the door or hearing a domestic disturbance.
If the officers have a search warrant, hotel staff can unlock the room for them even if you do not grant permission for entry.
You have a right to see the warrant if police have one. Ask to see the warrant if police enter your room. If possible, look over the document to learn the legal scope of the search. For example, the warrant may give permission to search the room, but not your suitcase or your personal electronics.
If the officers do not have a warrant or probable cause, only you can give permission for them to enter and search the room. If you open the door and police see contraband in plain sight, they can then enter the room regardless of whether or not they have a search warrant.
Guest Behavior and Changes to Privacy Rights
As mentioned in the previous section, hotel room privacy rights are highly conditional. In most cases where privacy rights are voided, the change results from guest behavior or choices. You give up your right to privacy if:
- You abandon the room, with or without paying for your full stay
- You leave contraband in your room in plain sight during a cleaning
- You return your room key before vacating the room
- You stay past your check-out time without making arrangements to lengthen your stay
- You violate the hotel’s policies and are evicted from your room by the staff
In these situations, police may then enter the hotel room regardless of your wishes.
Again, however, it’s important to keep track of the exact situation under which police enter your hotel room. Because, for example, a hotel staff member can tell the police about contraband left out on a table, but he or she cannot search your luggage, even if he or she believes you have contraband hidden in the room.
Similarly, if you are evicted from a hotel, your room can be searched without a warrant. However, if you have behaved contrary to the hotel’s policy, but no one has taken affirmative action to repossess the room, your full privacy rights are still intact. Poor conduct does not automatically terminate your rights.
Remember these guidelines so that you can act confidently within the confines of the law to protect your rights, freedom, and belongings while you’re away from home.
Have you been arrested from your hotel in violation of your privacy rights? All Star Bail Bonds recommends seeking the help of a local attorney. Once you have hired an attorney who will protect your rights, contact one of our experienced bail bondsmen who can work with your attorney to uphold your rights.