People visit Las Vegas for the lights, clubs and casinos and fill up the city’s 150,000-plus hotel rooms throughout the year. However, if you stay in Las Vegas or on the “Strip” in Clark County, you should know that use of illegal drugs in a hotel room violates the law. If you use controlled substances in your room, you could potentially face drug charges.
As a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, I work with clients facing drug charges in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County. I have met with many people who were surprised that police arrested them for something like marijuana possession. Visitors and even full-time residents often are unaware that a recent change in Nevada law that allows adults to possess up to one ounce of retail marijuana (or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrated marijuana) applies only to possession and use at a private residence.
So, if you smoke or possess pot or cannabis products in a hotel room, pool, casino or club or anywhere else away from a person’s home, the police could arrest you. If you possess any other illicit drugs such as cocaine, LSD, heroin or certain prescription pills, you face the risk of an arrest as well. If you are charged with a drug offense, it will serve your best interest to seek help from an attorney as soon as possible.
Your Right to Privacy in a Hotel Room
The Fourth Amendment protects people from being subjected to “unreasonable searches and seizures” by government actors – in other words, police officers. Under the law, police cannot barge into your residence without a warrant. If you are a hotel guest, you enjoy the same right to privacy in your room.
However, a hotel owner and its employees are not government agents. Typically, if guests use their rooms in an ordinary, expected manner, then those guests should expect that the hotel will honor their right to privacy. Still, the hotel retains the right to enter a room for housekeeping, maintenance and to protect their property from destruction. Hotel management also retains the right to enter and search a room without a guest’s permission if the staff believes the guest is engaging in illegal acts within the room or through use of the room.
For example, let’s say a housekeeper or maintenance worker entered your hotel room while you were down at the casino for a few hands. The worker claimed that he or she saw drugs or drug paraphernalia such as scales or baggies. Those items could be potential evidence of drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia – both illegal activities. They may also indicate possession with intent to sell.
A hotel employee could report what he or she saw in the room to the hotel’s management. A manager would then have a duty to call the police. By doing so, the hotel might provide police with probable cause to obtain a warrant. If a search of the room leads to a drug-related arrest, you could face a steep fine and possible jail time.
Your Hotel Room, Your Control
On the other hand, the hotel does not have the right to allow the police to search your room without your consent or without a proper search warrant. A hotel should not tell police which room you are staying in, either. Your right to privacy in a hotel room exists as long as you legally occupy the room.
At checkout time, your rights end (assuming the hotel regularly enforces checkout times). If the hotel is lax about checkout times or has expressly agreed to a late checkout for you, your rights may arguably continue to exist. Usually, once you leave a hotel — or you are evicted — management may allow police to search the room, with no need for a warrant.
If the police should find illegal drugs in a room that was most recently rented to you, then you could be charged. Even if you never occupied the room — for instance, you rented it for friends or family — what went on there could still be deemed your responsibility. This is because, technically, you were in “control” of the room.
Under Nevada law (NRS 453.336), it is illegal to knowingly or intentionally possess any controlled substance unless you have a valid prescription for the drug. Nevada courts recognize two types of possession: actual possession and constructive possession. You could be found to be in constructive possession of a drug if the evidence shows that you had knowledge of the drug’s presence on or about your property and the ability to maintain control and ownership of it. So, if you rented a hotel room, and drugs were found inside of the room, you could possibly be deemed to have been in constructive possession of those drugs.
Nightclub/Pool Party Drug Busts
Outside of your room at a Las Vegas hotel, you have less of a right to privacy. Hotels employ security personnel for public spaces like nightclubs, bars or pools. You may even be legally searched as a requirement for admission to these areas.
Hotels have an obligation to make sure the crowds that they attract do not break the law or otherwise get out of hand. If you hold or use drugs, a hotel will likely find that you crossed that line. Security and/or management could call the police and have you arrested.
Don’t Wait to Get a Lawyer’s Help after a Drug Arrest in Las Vegas
Drugs are just as illegal as ever in public places in Las Vegas. So, if you buy, possess, use or sell illegal drugs in a hotel room or other public area, you risk getting arrested and charged with a crime.
Drug charges in Las Vegas should not be taken lightly. They can be expensive and have lasting consequences. If the police arrest you for any drug-related crimes, protect your rights and your future by contacting our law firm as soon as possible. We will provide a free consultation.