Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-15-22826
Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael
O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jonathan P. Schmidt,
Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, St.
Paul, Minnesota; and Emily B. Hoffman, Special Assistant
Public Defender, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., Minneapolis,
Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Hooten,
Judge; and Klaphake, Judge. [*]
guest has no reasonable expectation of privacy in identifying
information that the guest voluntarily reveals to a hotel
operator for purposes of renting a hotel room. When police
obtain that identifying information by searching
hotel-registration records under Minn. Stat. § 327.12
(2018), there is no violation of the hotel guest's Fourth
John Thomas Leonard challenges his check-forgery convictions
based on evidence seized from his hotel room after police
obtained his identifying information from hotel-registration
records. Appellant argues that the district court erred by
denying his motion to suppress because the evidence against
him is the fruit of an unlawful search of hotel-registration
records. We affirm.
August 14, 2015, police officers requested a guest list from
a Bloomington hotel's registration records. A clerk at
the hotel's front desk provided the list and told the
officers that appellant had recently checked into a room,
provided a Pennsylvania identification card, and paid cash to
use the room for six hours. Because the brief cash rental by
an out-of-state guest aroused the officers' suspicions,
they checked appellant's criminal history. They
discovered that appellant had numerous arrests for drugs,
firearms, and fraud.
officers proceeded to appellant's room, knocked on the
door, and identified themselves as police. Approximately 60
seconds elapsed, during which time the officers heard a
toilet flush and papers shuffling. Then appellant answered
the door and permitted the officers to enter, but immediately
after allowing the officers into the room, he picked up a
laptop, a cell phone, and a file folder that appeared to
contain several checks. Appellant declined the officers'
request to inspect those items. In the room, the officers
observed a large amount of cash, two printers, and several
envelopes. The officers then froze the scene and obtained a
search warrant. In searching the room pursuant to the
warrant, officers recovered several checks purporting to be
paychecks from various hotels to "Spencer Alan
Hill" at various addresses. Six of the checks indicated
the same account number, but purported to be from different
banks. The amounts for which the checks were payable totaled
$2, 521.22. Officers also recovered $5, 338 in cash, and
check-printing paper that had been loaded into a printer.
was charged with check forgery and offering a forged check.
He moved to suppress the evidence seized from his hotel room.
He argued that the warrantless search of the hotel's
registration records was unjustified because the statutes
that require hotel operators, under threat of criminal
sanction, to maintain such records and make them "open
to the inspection of all law enforcement," Minn. Stat.
§§ 327.10, .12, .13 (2018), are unconstitutional
under City of Los Angeles v. Patel, 135 S.Ct. 2443
(2015). Appellant asserted that the identifying information
gleaned from the records so obtained led directly to the
seizure of the evidence against him.
district court denied appellant's suppression motion,
reasoning that appellant lacked a reasonable expectation of
privacy in the information he gave to the hotel for its
registration records. Appellant thereafter waived a jury
trial and submitted the case to the district court for
resolution on stipulated evidence under Minn. R. Crim. P.