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Recently, Henry Nicholas III, co-founder of Broadcom was arrested in Las Vegas for drug trafficking. Police found a large stash of meth, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin in his hotel suite. This brings about an important question for all guests, not just ones that are worth over $3 billion. What if I have drugs in a hotel room and a maid or housekeeper comes across them? What will, or at least, should, the housekeeper do about it? In one word -- probably nothing.
As surprising as this may sound, the U.S. Constitution protects a hotel patron lawfully in possession of the room from a housekeeper stumbling upon anything illegal in a hotel room, including drugs.
The Fourth Amendment protects people against unlawful searches and seizures. Any evidence found during these unlawful searches is usually excluded from admission in a court case, and without that key evidence, charges are normally dismissed. If the hotel guest is lawfully in possession of the hotel room, meaning he checked in and the check-out time hasn't passed, and he hasn't been evicted, the guest has the right not to have his hotel room searched by anyone, including a maid or housekeeper.
But what if the guest had been so loud that the hotel manager has told the guest he is in violation of clearly communicated hotel policy, and the guest is being kicked out of the hotel? That notice serves as an eviction, and the guest no longer has Fourth Amendment rights. The housekeeper can enter the room, and inform management of any drugs. Management can then contact the police, who will get a warrant, search the premises, obtain the guest's contact information from the hotel registry, and potentially arrest the guest.
What if the guest has checked out and accidentally left behind some drugs? The guest's Fourth Amendment rights went right out the door with the guest. As the saying goes, the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. If a housekeeper comes across drugs in a room after checkout, then the housekeeper could lawfully inform hotel management, who may call the police, and set the arrest process in motion.
If a maid or housekeeper finds drugs in your hotel room, tells hotel management, who then tells hotel police, what can you do about it? The first thing to do is to clear your name of any drug charges by asserting your Fourth Amendment rights. But then what? Interestingly, though the police did violate your fourth amendment rights by entering your room, they will undoubtedly hide behind the rules of sovereign immunity to escape any consequences. However, the hotel also violated your constitutional rights, and therefore you do have a Civil Rights claim against the hotel, and the hotel chain. It was unlawful for them to provide the drug information and your name off of their registry. Sovereign immunity rarely extends to the hotel. And therefore, a guest whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated can file suit against the hotel, even for injuries sustained when the police arrested the guest.
If you have been charged with a crime for drugs found in your hotel room, contact a local criminal defense attorney, who can review the facts of your case. You may be able to escape criminal charges, and maybe even recover money against the hotel.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.