• Hotel Registry Searches
  • July 31, 2012 | Author: G. Ross Trindle
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Overview: The Ninth Circuit recently upheld a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel and motel operators to provide police officers with certain guest registry information “for inspection” on request. Two Los Angeles motel owners argued that the ordinance was unconstitutional because it authorized a warrantless search of private business records. The court disagreed, finding that the hotel operators failed to establish an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in their guest registries. The court also found that any intrusion was limited because the ordinance required “minimal interference” with business operations.

    Training Points: This case establishes the state of the law with respect to searches of hotel registries in the Ninth Circuit, providing a powerful crime-fighting tool where an ordinance is in place. In the absence of a regulation, courts may still uphold a warrantless search under similar circumstances if the third party has no privacy interest in the requested information. Once hotel guests voluntarily reveal information during check-in, neither they nor the hotel operators can claim a reasonable expectation of privacy. There is also no intrusion where the registration information is “easily accessible” by the public at the front desk, reception or check-in area.

    Summary Analysis: In Patel v. City of Los Angeles, two motel owners (Patels) challenged a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel operators to provide police access to certain guest registry information. The Patels argued that the ordinance violated their Fourth Amendment rights, but the Ninth Circuit disagreed, noting that such facial attacks were the “most difficult to mount” because they required showing that the law was “unconstitutional in all of its applications.” Because the Patels could not prove a reasonable expectation of privacy in guest registers for all hotel owners, much less their own, their challenge failed and the court upheld the ordinance.