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Search Warrant Not Required for Search of Defendant's Hotel Room


Case: People v. Word

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Search & seizure; Motion to suppress evidence collected from defendant’s hotel room; Presumptive unreasonableness of a warrantless search; People v. Barbarich; Hotel or motel room occupant’s right to Fourth Amendment protection; People v. Davis; Stoner v. California; Applicability of warrant exceptions; The plain view doctrine; People v. Galloway; People v. Champion; Exigent circumstances; People v. Snider; Whether the denial of defendant’s request for substitute counsel on the first day of trial constructively denied him his right to counsel; People v. Traylor; People v. Bradley; People v. Buie (On Remand); Good cause for substitution of counsel; People v. McFall; Decisions about trial strategy; People v. Strickland; The trial court’s obligation to hear defendant’s claim; People v. Ginther; Request for a jury instruction on possession of a controlled substance as an alternative to a manufacturing/delivery charge; Distinguishing People v. Gridiron (On Rehearing); Prosecutorial error; People v. Dobek; People v. Mann; Alleged use of false testimony; People v. Smith; People v. Bass


Holding that the plain view and exigent circumstances exceptions to the warrant requirement applied, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress evidence collected from his hotel room. Further, while the trial court should have determined whether the allegations he raised in requesting substitute counsel were true, the court held that reversal was not required.

He was convicted of possession of a controlled substance less than 25 grams (cocaine and heroin), felony-firearm, and felon in possession. The court found that the plain view doctrine applied “because before even entering the room, an officer observed several incriminating items in plain view, including a crack pipe, a chore boy, and a corner tie containing what appeared to be narcotics. The incriminating nature of narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia was also immediately apparent.” While searching the room for other occupants or victims, an officer found “the other narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia lying in plain view.” The police did not have to “be absolutely certain that the items were being used to commit a crime before seizing them. A reasonably prudent person, viewing the totality of the circumstances, could conclude that the items were being used in the commission of a crime.” Thus, they were properly seized. The exigent circumstances exception likewise applied where police were “called to the hotel when the desk clerk viewed defendant in his room, waiving a gun, and talking. The officers also viewed defendant holding the gun, thrusting it forward, and jumping around like he was nervous and jittery.” Further, while outside the room, they heard noises that sounded “like ‘you hit a pillow or something or you hit something that’s like a body hit kind of thing.’” The court found that the “officers had sufficient reason to conclude that the room might contain an injured or threatened individual” needing immediate rescue.

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