Can Police Enter a Hotel Room Without a Warrant In California ?
In People v. Wilson (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 1053, a police officer had reasonable suspicion to believe a woman had committed a possible felony -- fraudulently altering a car's registration tab. ( Id. at p. 1060.)
The officer was driving through a motel parking lot when he saw a parked car with a registration tab that had expired and that appeared to have been tampered with. ( Id. at p. 1056.)
The motel manager informed the officer the car belonged to a man and woman in room 22. (Ibid.)
The officer knocked on the door and spoke with the man, who agreed to go to the parking lot to discuss the registration. He denied knowing anything about the altered registration. When asked who owned the car, the man changed his story four times. He initially said the car belonged to his girlfriend, then claimed it belonged to a friend, then said he did not know who owned it, and finally admitted it belonged to his girlfriend. ( Id. at p. 1057.)
The officer went back to the motel room to speak with the woman. He knocked on the door, which swung open, and saw the woman, defendant Wilson, reaching under a bed. So he stepped into the apartment to be in a better defensive position in case she was reaching for a weapon. (Ibid.)
the Court of Appeal balanced the character of the intrusion against the factors which justified it, and held the officer's warrantless entry was reasonable. ( People v. Wilson, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1058-1059.) on the one hand, stepping into the motel room was minimally intrusive. the door had been left unlocked and slightly ajar. and the officer only took a single step into the room.
He did not search the premises, seize the defendant's person, or hold her at gunpoint. and there was no evidence anyone else saw the officer step into the motel room, which reduced the public stigma or embarrassment normally attached to a police search or seizure. ( Id. at p. 1059.)
On the other hand, the officer's conduct was justified by two main factors. First, the officer had a reasonable suspicion the defendant was involved in a possible felony. And, second, he had a "concern for security" while engaged in a felony investigation. ( Id. at p. 1060.) on balance, no Fourth Amendment violation had taken place. ( Id. at p. 1061.)