VA: Hotel contract said mgr could enter at will, and that was consent

Defendant rented a hotel room for a week through one Heid because he didn’t have an ID, and he paid Heid for it. The contract Heid signed allowed entry by the hotelier into the room up to once a week to check for safety and health issues. Inside, he found marijuana, and he called the cops who he admitted to see it for themselves. They procured a search warrant. Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the room as to the hotelier’s entry and the express consent in the contract. In addition, the contract created no landlord-tenant relationship, and the occupant was a transient occupant. Salahuddin v. Commonwealth, 2017 Va. App. LEXIS 18 (Jan. 31, 2017):

We reach a similar conclusion in the instant case, based in part on additional facts stronger than those in Allen. Here, Heid signed a rental agreement that, in addition to permitting random room inspections, expressly provides that “[g]uests must comply with all … laws” and that the renter’s failure to do so “may result in [the renter’s] being asked to leave the premises.” It also states that landlord/tenant laws, along with their concomitant protections, do not apply. In light of these express terms, we hold that the hotel manager’s act of telephoning the police—after observing suspicious “foot traffic” and then seeing suspected marijuana in plain view during an authorized inspection of the room—constituted an invocation of the express provision of the rental agreement permitting the hotel to exclude a renter from the premises for failing to “comply with all . . . laws,” despite the fact that the renter was not expressly notified of this exclusion. See McCary, 36 Va. App. at 37, 548 S.E.2d at 244 (regarding the risk of losing one’s reasonable expectation of privacy, noting the “prevailing view that ‘the risk that one assumes … when renting a hotel or motel room … is substantially greater than the risk assumed when renting residential quarters'” such as a house or apartment (quoting 3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 8.5(a), at 782-83 (3d ed. 1996))). Consequently, we conclude as a matter of law that, pursuant to the terms of the rental agreement, when the manager led Officers Brooks and Young into the room, the appellant no longer had an expectation of privacy in that room that society was willing to recognize as objectively reasonable. Instead, custody of the room had reverted to the hotel, and the manager was able to consent to the officers’ entry for Fourth Amendment purposes. Compare Allen, 106 F.3d at 699-700 (upholding reversion to motel staff of the right to consent to entry where staff locked out a room’s occupant based in part on his illegal drug activity inside the room and contacted the police for assistance), and McCary, 36 Va. App. at 38-39, 548 S.E.2d at 244-45 (upholding reversion to hotel staff of the right to consent to entry where staff contacted the police for assistance based in part on audible property destruction inside the room), with Stoner, 376 U.S. at 484-85, 487-89 (reversing the admission of evidence found in the search of a hotel room where the police initiated contact with hotel staff for permission to search a room whose occupant was a suspect in a robbery in a different town, wholly unrelated to his occupancy of the room).

This entry was posted in Consent, Reasonable expectation of privacy. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.