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In a 5-4 decision issued earlier today, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles law that permitted police to spontaneously inspect hotel guest records.

City of Los Angeles v. Patel, authored by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, ruled that Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.49, which requires hotel proprietors to keep and record particular information about their guests for 90 days, as well as make that information available upon demand to police, is unconstitutional.

The case provides hotel owners with the right to seek judicial procedures and judicial review before having to turn their records about private guests over to police with little or no notice, instead of being arrested immediately for non-compliance with police demands.

Under the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, among other things, and generally requires law enforcement to have a warrant to conduct such a search.

In this case, the Court ruled that the L.A. Police’s instant and unannounced demand for information constituted an unreasonable search, particularly because hotel owners had no opportunity to challenge the demand for information before a court.

City officials contended that the current ordinance was needed to effectively battle and eliminate illicit conduct such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and illegal gambling that may occur in hotels. 

The majority of the Court disagreed. As a result, L.A. officials must now rewrite the city law to provide hotel owners with more rights and protections so as to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Ronald G. Brower is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Southern California. If you or someone you know is being investigated or charged with a crime, it is important to know about and to protect your constitutional rights.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower today.

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