Fourth Amendment

LA Motels Fight Warrantless Searches of Registration Records

Required to provide host of information to police about guests whenever asked

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Motels owners fighting a Los Angeles ordinance allowing warrantless searches of registration records told the 9th Circuit that the law is unconstitutional.

The ordinance requires owners to record guest information, including names and addresses; total number of guests; make, type and license number of the guest's vehicle; date and time of arrival; scheduled date of departure; room number; rate charged; method of payment, and name of employee who checked the guest in. Upon request, motel owners must then give such information to police.

After Los Angeles motel owners Naranjibhai and Ramilaben Patel filed suit, U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher found that the Patels did not show they have a privacy interest in the registry information. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed but the court agreed later to rehear the case en banc.

As that 11-judge panel met in Seattle last week, the Patels' attorney, Frank Weiser, said the touchstone for any Forth Amendment case was "reasonableness."