The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will consider whether police in Los Angeles and other localities may demand to see a hotel’s registry without obtaining a search warrant.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last year struck down a city law giving police this power, saying it violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.
Los Angeles asked the Supreme Court to consider the case , saying there are more than 70 such laws on the books around the country.
The laws “expressly help police investigate crimes such as prostitution and gambling, capture dangerous fugitives and even authorize federal law enforcement to examine these registers, an authorization which can be vital in the immediate aftermath of a homeland terrorist attack,” the city argued in its petition.
The law requires hotel owners to keep detailed records of guests, including identification, method of payment, the license plate numbers of their cars and how much they paid. For guests who pay in cash or stay for less than 12 hours, it requires even more details.
The hotel owners say they have no problem with that part of the law, and courts have ruled that hotel guests have no reasonable expectation of privacy about information they disclose to a third party.
But the appeals court ruled 7 to 4 that hotel owners should not have to make the records subject to police inspection on demand, without judicial supervision.
“The hotel has the right to exclude others from prying into the contents of its records,” Circuit Judge Paul Watford wrote for the majority, adding that “businesses do not ordinarily disclose, and are not expected to disclose, the kind of commercially sensitive information contained in the records — e.g., customer lists, pricing practices, and occupancy rates.”
Los Angeles said that conflicts with the ruling of another appeals court.
The case is Los Angeles v. Patel.
It was one of several cases the Supreme Court accepted Monday that will be considered during the current term.
It will also decide whether a convicted felon who had to give up possession of his guns could sell or transfer the firearms to others.
Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent, turned over to federal authorities 19 weapons after he was charged with distributing marijuana. He eventually pleaded guilty.
After that, Henderson wanted to sell the guns to a friend or transfer them to his wife.
But lower courts ruled that would require Henderson to “possess” the weapons, and that was against the law.
The case is Henderson v. U.S.