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Friday, June 26, 2015

Hotel Records Ordinance Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court has been active this session in cases involving local governments. Unfortunately, the decisions have not been very favorable to local governments, including today's case striking down a city's hotel records ordinance.  City of Los Angeles v. Patel, et al.

The City of Los Angeles adopted an ordinance requiring hotel operators to record and keep information about their guests, including name, address, vehicle information, date and time of arrival, room number, rate, and method of payment. In addition, any guest without a reservation or who pays for their room in cash must also present a photo ID at check-in. The ordinance requires hotel operators to make this information available to LA police upon request. Violation of the ordinance is punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

A group of hotel operators sued the City challenging the constitutionality of the police inspection provision of the ordinance, claiming that a police officer's non-consensual inspection of hotel records was an unlawful "search" under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and struck down the ordinance as unconstitutional. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, finding the ordinance facially unconstitutional because it penalizes hotel operators for declining to turn over their records without providing any review or appeal opportunity. The Court was particularly concerned with a police officer's ability to arrest a hotel owner on the spot if he or she refuses to give the officer access.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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