Welcome to the Hotel California, But if You're the Police Get a Judge's Permission First

December 16, 2015 – 04:20 pm

Photos taken February 12, 2014 Faculty photo of Professor Robert WeisbergIf you accept the estimate of the Supreme Court in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, there are about 2, 000 hotels in America’s second-largest city. That’s a big number even for a big city, but the category presumably runs from the Four Seasons through your basic Ramada Inn and ultimately down to the less savory places where rooms rent by the hour for quick trysts (sincerely romantic or honestly commercial) or perhaps longer if the guests want to trade or package or smoke their dope at leisure. But for over a century all such hotels have been subject to a city ordinance requiring the host to maintain a registry (paper or digital) with lots of information about guests—name and address, car information, date of arrival and departure, room assignment, price, method of payment and often credit card and driver’s license data. More controversially, the ordinance requires the hotel to make this registry available at all times for unannounced ad hoc inspections by the police. And some hotels believed that the ordinance violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment.

You might have expected the case testing this law to arise when the police learned about a particular guest doing bad things in Room 222, and the guest, charged with a crime, then moved to suppress any evidence found there. Or perhaps the hotel manager or desk clerk might have been implicated in the crime and was the one trying to do the suppressing. But this case had no facts at all. In legal jargon, it was a “facial challenge, ” a civil case brought by a group of hotels in a preemptive strike against the city, with the goal of an injunction against ever applying the law.

Source: law.stanford.edu

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