Friday, November 1, 2019


You are staying at a motel. You heard some people with a dog outside your room, but you thought nothing of it. A little while later, the police were at your door with a warrant. The dog you heard earlier was part of the canine unit, and now police want to search your room.

Can they do that? What can you do?

The Fourth Amendment of the constitution guarantees you the right to be free of unreasonable searches or seizures. The police need probable cause or a warrant to perform a search although there are some exceptions. When you are in a hotel or motel, you have the same expectation of privacy in your room as you would have in your own home. Therefore, the police must obtain a warrant in order to search. While you have less expectation of privacy in the hallway outside your hotel room than you would outside your apartment or home, police may still need to obtain a warrant.

For example, in People v. Lindsey, police used a dog to sniff the door handle and seams of defendant’s motel room. The dog alerted police to the presence of heroin, and the police returned with a warrant. The court found the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment and overturned defendant’s conviction.

If you are the subject of an unlawful search, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence found in the search. The results of an illegal search are known as “fruit of the poisoned tree.” If police have no other basis for your arrest, your case could be dismissed.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Do the police have probable cause to arrest you? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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