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Hotel Manager – Crime Fighter or Victim’s Advocate

A man is beating his wife or children in one of your rooms…

A woman has had a steady stream of “unsightly traffic” to her room…

A housekeeper reports that a room has evidence of drugs…

A drunk or drugged guest is belligerent to your staff…

A meth lab is discovered in your hotel…

These are all situations that you, as a Hotel Manager may come across more than once in your career. You may not have been trained on your legal rights or guided on your moral obligations. The minute you find yourself in the middle of a highly stressful scenario and your staff is looking to you for guidance, you should be ready to act with confidence to secure the safety of your staff, your guests and your hotel.

Know your RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES as a hotel manager.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Can you intervene?

The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution has become a central theme in many cases for debating the privacy laws and what can and should be considered “private.” The amendment specifically names the “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” A hotel room, however, was not specifically mentioned, so we have to turn to court rulings to see where the precedence lies. According to Jason C. Miller in the Seton Hall Circuit Review Vol 7, No. 2, a registered guest, in his/her hotel room, has the same expectation of privacy as he/she would in the home. This statement may sound like a dead-end for hoteliers, but the key concepts are:


  1. An expectation of privacy is limited to the inside of the actual guest’s room. Any action witnessed or proof contained in a common area is free game. So, if you witness criminal behavior out in the open, of course, call the police and wait for them to enforce the law on your behalf.
  2. The fourth amendment protects against police or government intrusion–not hotel manager intrusion. If you suspect or know that illegal or dangerous activity is taking place inside a hotel room, then you, as a hotel manager, may enter a guest’s hotel room at any time, and without prior notice, even if the “Do Not Disturb” sign is on the door. Warning: Knocking on or recognizing the DND sign are both matters of respect and good customer service, so you should always have a good reason to disregard these. If, upon entering the room, you find that your suspicions are founded, you must call the police and terminate the registration of the guest so that when the police arrive, they are clear to proceed. If you have no need to enter the hotel room to secure proof of the situation, (for example, you heard screaming or gunshots or threats) then in no way should you or your staff members personally intervene or enter the guest room for any reason. The proof that you are privy to will give the police probable cause to enter the guest room. Call the police immediately and wait for them to arrive.
  3. The privacy is only guaranteed for a “Registered” guest, so the only way a police officer may enter a hotel room without a warrant or probable cause is if the guest is no longer registered. This places the onus completely on the hotel manager, who must evict the guest for any violation of hotel policy and then allow the police to enter. The tricky part comes in when the consistency of the management is under scrutiny. The following are some scenarios and guidelines to help you understand when a guest is considered Registered and how you can Un-Register them:
    1. If a guest registers a room in his/her actual name and is the only person occupying the room, and the time frame falls between check in and check out, then the guest is easily determined to be a Registered Guest.
    2. If a person registers a room under a false name or is a guest of a person who is truthfully registered, they can still fall under the protection of the Fourth Amendment.
    3. If you, as a hotel manager, are attempting to evict a guest due to a policy violation but have historically allowed other guests to act the same way without threat of eviction, then your eviction will not hold water.
    4. A guest’s registration ends at checkout time automatically. But if the checkout time has passed and the guest is technically not registered for another night, and you have historically let other guests stay past the checkout time without repercussions, then again, the relinquishing of the guest room becomes too subjective.


Allowing crimes in your hotel has many fiscal repercussions:


You will never get ahead if you think that blindly taking anyone’s money is acceptable.

All business aside, being a caring member of the human race should guide you in your management style and management decisions. To some people, the will to help a fellow man is intrinsic, but it is a sad fact that more and more people would rather not get involved. In recent years, two pieces of the legislation have circulated throughout the United States that have addressed the moral responsibilities of its people:

The American Bystander Rule and the Good Samaritan Doctrine.

The American Bystander Rule “eliminates criminal liability to those who do not summon or render aid, while The Good Samaritan Doctrine “makes it mandatory to at least attempt to summon aid for an individual in peril.”

It is interesting to find that MOST states have sided with the American Bystander Rule because

  1. Requiring someone to act in a situation that does not directly involve them removes their American Right to Choice.
  2. The states would prefer to rely on the moral code of its citizens to help when they see a person in need.

Your state or city may have adopted one or the other of these laws and that is important for you to know, but most importantly, we SHOULD care and we SHOULD act.



Citation: Miller, Jason C., Do Not Disturb: Fourth Amendment Expectations of Privacy in Hotel Rooms (December 1, 2010). Seton Hall Circuit Review Vol. 7, No. 2, Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1718669.

Citation: The Lair of Filtiarn. “American Bystander Rule vs. “Good Samaritan” Doctrine Essay + Sources”. Available at SSRN: https://denkirthefiltiarn.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/american-bystander-rule-vs-good-samaritan-doctrine/

june mccreight author

June McCreight

June McCreight began her career in the hospitality industry as a housekeeper in 1996. In the years since, she has risen through the ranks, learning maintenance, front office, sales and revenue management, property management and district management, bench management and opening team management. She has trained hundreds of hoteliers and won many awards for her management successes. In 2011, June wrote and published, The Strangers in My Beds, a fictional novel based strictly on the strange events of her career in hotels. In 2014, June partnered with her father, a very accomplished software architect, and opened the business, Coba Enterprise Management, LLC with a very unique and specialized CMMS (Computer Maintenance Management System) software for hotels.

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