Can Police Search My Hotel Room in New Jersey?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have a right against unreasonable search and seizure. Many people are aware that this right applies to their home and even their vehicle—with certain exceptions—but may wonder whether it applies to a search of their hotel room. The Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure applies to places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. So, the question becomes: do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your hotel room in New Jersey?

Courts have found that an individual does have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their hotel room. This means that in order to conduct a search of your hotel room in New Jersey, the police must have a warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate or an exception to the warrant requirement must apply.

Exceptions to the warrant requirement that might apply to a hotel room in NJ include consent, plain view doctrine, search incident to lawful arrest, and exigent circumstances. Read on for more information about exceptions that apply to hotel room searches in New Jersey. If you have been charged with a crime after a search of your hotel room, please feel free to contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law in Point Pleasant, NJ for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at (848) 238-2100 or contact us online today.


If the police knock on your hotel room door and ask if they can search your hotel room, you have a right to ask them to see a warrant and, if they do not have warrant to search your hotel room, you have a right to decline consent for the search. While it can be intimidating to have police show up at your hotel room door and you might even feel inclined to allow them to enter just to prove you are not committing a crime, it is best not to do so. You have nothing to gain from consenting to the search and there are no penalties for declining to give consent to a warrantless search.

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest

If the police have a warrant for your arrest, they may enter your hotel room in order to execute that warrant and place you under arrest. While doing so, the police are allowed to conduct a search of the area within your search or “wingspan” to ensure their safety and prevent against the destruction of evidence. For example, if you are sitting on the bed with a bag of marijuana on your lap, police are legally allowed to confiscate the drugs and charge you with marijuana possession.

Plain View Doctrine

In New Jersey, if the police can see evidence of a crime or illegal contraband in your hotel room from the road, the hotel hallway, or anywhere else where they are legally entitled to be, they are able to seize it without a warrant under the plain view doctrine. The plain view doctrine applies if the discovery is inadvertent and the criminal nature of the item(s) seized is immediately apparent to police. For instance, if you have a firearm in your hotel room that police can see when you open the door, they don’t need a warrant to ask you for your New Jersey gun permit. If you don’t have a valid Firearms Purchaser Identification Card or permit to carry a handgun issued in the state of New Jersey, you may be arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon.

Exigent Circumstances

More commonly known as “emergency circumstances,” exigent circumstances establish the police’s ability to conduct a warrantless search of your hotel room if it is reasonably necessary to prevent physical harm to the police or others, destruction of evidence, or escape of the suspect.

Charged after a Hotel Room Search in Ocean County, New Jersey?

Criminal charges after hotel room searches are highly common in Ocean County, NJ, as there are hundreds of hotels in the area and the Jersey Shore is a popular vacation destination. As a result, people often run into law enforcement issues after police come to their hotel room and attempt to conduct a search of the premises. Our team of criminal defense attorneys often challenge evidence resulting from hotel room searches in Toms River, Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Lavallette, Mantaloking, and throughout Ocean County.

If you were involved in a situation where the police conducted a warrantless search of your hotel room and it led to evidence collection and a criminal charge against you, or you feel that your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was violated, contact our experienced Ocean County criminal defense lawyers to review your case today. You can call our Point Pleasant office at (848) 238-2100 or contact us online to arrange your free consultation.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.