Can police officers legally enter a hotel room without consent from the owner/landlord and without a warrant?

Asked about 5 years ago - Fontana, CA

My father is the owner/operator of a hotel and recently police officers have been hassling guests during their patrols. Often times officers will handcuff guests and question them in the back of the squad car and even search their rooms without permission from my father. The customers are always let go after questioning but the experience has made customers demand their money back which is bad for business. Are the searches and questioning legal? My father has already filed complaints against the department but isn't getting anywhere. Should he contact a lawyer?

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Joseph Briscoe Dane


    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . They don't need permission from the owner of the motel to search.

    Once a motel owner rents a room, it shifts to the guest to allow people into their room. It works the other way, too. Your farther cannot consent to a search of a guest's room after it's been rented - he has no legal authority to consent.

    If the police have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, they can detain and question people for a reasonable period of time to investigate. If those people consent to searches (or if there are other grounds to allow a search, such as the person is on probation or parole), then the police can legally search.

    Something tells me that your father's motel has become a target of local police - the two things that come to mind are that prostitutes or drug dealers are frequent guests and they're conducting their illegal activity in the hotel.

    Perhaps instead of complaining, he should ask to speak to a detective or a supervisor in the detective bureau in the police agency that's doing all the searches. He can try to find out what's going on and clean the place up, ending the frequent police visits.

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