Submitted: February 10, 2017
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Kansas City
SMITH,  GRUENDER, and BENTON, Circuit
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
A. Peoples pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a
firearm, conditioned on his right to appeal the denial of his
motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of a
motel room where he was staying. Because the search warrant
was based on evidence discovered by law enforcement officers
while assisting motel management in lawfully evicting
Peoples, we affirm.
March 26, 2015, Kansas City Police Department
("KCPD") Officer Bobbi King was working undercover
at the Crown Lodge, a motel on the edge of town that has
suffered from a rash of criminal activity in recent years. On
that particular morning, Officer King spotted a silver Toyota
Camry in the motel parking lot that had been reported stolen.
Accordingly, she proceeded to conduct surveillance on the
vehicle. Officer King eventually observed two individuals, a
male and a female, come out of Room 114 and approach the
Camry. The woman threw a bag into the car, had a conversation
with the man across the vehicle, and then drove out of the
parking lot. Officer King followed the Camry to Independence,
Missouri, where she arrested the female suspect-later
identified as Melissa Tully-for possession of a stolen
automobile. After the arrest, police found ammunition and an
empty gun holster inside the vehicle, and Tully informed
officers that a gentleman by the name of "Dusty"
had spent the night with her in Room 114.
Officer Deryck Galloway was dispatched to the Crown Lodge to
advise management of the criminal activity on premises and to
determine the identity of the male from Room 114. After
arriving at the motel, Officer Galloway informed the clerk on
duty that a stolen car had been observed leaving the Crown
Lodge parking lot and that, while one person had been
arrested, there was still a young man associated with the
vehicle inside Room 114. In response, the clerk handed
Officer Galloway a key to Room 114 so that he could evict the
occupants. Either immediately before or after this
conversation, Officer Galloway learned that police had
recovered ammunition and an empty holster from the stolen
vehicle and that the male suspect in Room 114 was named
Galloway then went to Room 114 accompanied by other officers,
knocked on the door several times, and announced that he was
with the police. Receiving no response, he used the key to
enter the room and found Peoples lying on the bed. He also
noticed a loaded handgun magazine on the floor next to the
bed and what appeared to be narcotics on the night stand.
Peoples was then taken into custody. Based on the evidence
observed in plain view during the eviction, police obtained a
search warrant for the room, where they discovered and seized
a Glock 42 pistol along with an array of stolen electronics.
Peoples was subsequently indicted for being a felon in
possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the
initial police entry into the motel room, which he claimed
was an unlawful warrantless search that tainted the
subsequent search warrant as fruit of the poisonous tree.
See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484
(1963). After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the
magistrate judge recommended denying the motion, finding no
Fourth Amendment violation because a valid eviction
terminates a hotel guest's reasonable expectation of
privacy in the room. Here, "the motel management was
justified in evicting the occupants of Room 114 . . .
[because] Missouri law allows a hotel to eject a person when
the hotel operator reasonably believes that the person is
using the premises for an unlawful purpose."
See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 315.075(3). The district
court adopted this analysis in full. Peoples
then entered into a plea agreement with the Government, in
which he reserved the right to appeal the denial of his
motion to suppress, and was sentenced to 46 months'
imprisonment. He timely appeals, arguing that the Fourth
Amendment compels us to reverse the denial of his motion to
considering [the] denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we
review the district court's conclusions of law de
novo and its factual findings for clear error."
United States v. Molsbarger, 551 F.3d 809, 811 (8th
Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The parties agree that the Fourth Amendment's
"protection against unreasonable searches and seizures
extends to a person's privacy in temporary dwelling
places such as hotel or motel rooms." United States
v. Conner, 127 F.3d 663, 666 (8th Cir. 1997). However,
"once a guest has been justifiably expelled,
the guest is without standing to contest an officer's
entry into his hotel room on Fourth Amendment grounds."
Young v. Harrison, 284 F.3d 863, 867 (8th Cir.
2002). As we explained in United States v. Rambo,
this is true because, upon eviction, "the rental period
. . . terminate[s] . . . [and] control over the hotel room
revert[s] to management." 789 F.2d 1289, 1295-96 (8th
Cir. 1986). Rambo and subsequent cases make clear
that the justification for such evictions may come from state
statutes authorizing the removal of guests under certain
circumstances. See, e.g., id. at 1294
(holding that Minnesota's undesirable guest statute
justified officers' entry into a hotel room); United
States v. Bohmont, 413 F.App'x 946, 950-51 (8th Cir.
2011) (unpublished) (per curiam) (reaching same conclusion
based on Mo. Rev. Stat. § 315.075). Thus, it is
significant that, under Missouri law, "[a]n owner or
operator of a hotel may eject a person from the hotel and
notify the appropriate local law enforcement authorities [if]
. . . [he or she] reasonably believes that the individual is
using the premises for an unlawful purpose." Mo. Rev.
Stat. § 315.075(3).
effectively advances two arguments in favor of suppression.
First, he suggests that the KCPD attempted to circumvent the
Fourth Amendment by acting through a private citizen to
conduct a "warrantless search" of Room 114. Tying
this doctrine to the lodging context, Peoples invokes
Stoner v. California, in which the Supreme Court
held that hotel clerks cannot consent to the search of a
guest's room. 376 U.S. 483, 489-90 (1964). While this is
undoubtedly true, the record does not support Peoples's
efforts to frame the KCPD's initial entry into Room 114
as a search. Rather, the magistrate judge determined that the
motel clerk handed Officer Galloway a key for the purpose of
effecting an eviction, not to conduct a search. Peoples does
not contest this finding, and in fact, he concedes that
"the motel management provided Officer Galloway a key to
Room 114 to evict the occupants inside the
room." Thus, this is a very different situation
from the invalidated search in Stoner, which
occurred after a hotel clerk granted police access to a room
rented by a robbery suspect, who was absent at the time, for
the express purpose of conducting a search. See id.
at 484-86. As such, Peoples's first argument fails.
Peoples contends that, even if Stoner does not
require reversal, the initial police entry into Room 114 was
unlawful because his eviction was neither
"justified" nor "proper" under Missouri
law. See Molsbarger, 551 F.3d at 811
("Justifiable eviction terminates a hotel
occupant's reasonable expectation of privacy in the
room." (emphasis added) (citations omitted));
Young, 284 F.3d at 869 ("[W]hen a hotel guest
is properly evicted he loses the Fourth
Amendment's protection against warrantless entry."
(emphasis added)). Specifically, Peoples argues that section
315.075 cannot be read to authorize evictions of guests that
result from police reports of illicit conduct to hotel
management. The genesis of such evictions, he suggests, must
come from innkeepers independently.
acknowledge the potential for abuse when police provide the
impetus for evictions under section 315.075. For example, it
is possible that an officer might provide motel management
with misleading information about a guest to cause an
eviction as an end-around to the warrant process. However,
just as we cannot blindly defer to police reports of
suspected criminal activity, neither can we interpret section
315.075 to require innkeepers to ignore police warnings of
illicit conduct on hotel premises. Instead, we must look to
the specific facts behind police-initiated evictions.
does not offer, and the record does not betray, any evidence
of bad faith on the part of the KCPD. In fact, Officer
Galloway did not so much as suggest that the clerk should
evict Peoples. Rather, the record demonstrates that, in
giving the key to Officer Galloway, the clerk wanted the
occupants of Room 114 removed. Further, this desire was
justified under Missouri law because the clerk had a
reasonable belief that the occupants of Room 114 were using
motel premises for an unlawful purpose, given Officer