Fourth Amendment

Today at SCOTUS: Warrantless Police Inspections of Hotel Guest Registries

|

Credit: Flickr.com

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument today in the case of Los Angeles v. Patel. At issue is whether the Fourth Amendment is violated by a city law which requires that hotel guest registries "shall be made available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for Inspection" without need of a warrant. It is a crime for hotel owners to refuse to comply with such police demands.

In its argument today, the city of Los Angeles will urge the Supreme Court to overturn a 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of  Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which held that hotels do have an expectation of privacy in their guest registries under the Fourth Amendment. According to city officials, allowing that ruling to stand would jeopardize the ability of the police to "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."

Naranjibha Patel, the hotel owner who has led the charge against the registry law, disputes that glowing assessment of its purported benefits. "Because the City fails to show any special need for endowing individual police officers with this extraordinary power," Patel's main brief argues, "the Court cannot accept [the city's] interpretation of the Fourth Amendment without simultaneously encouraging governments throughout the country to adopt similar laws providing police with unfettered access to all manner of business records."

A decision in Los Angeles v. Patel is expected by June.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Obama Wants 10 Year Nuclear Freeze From Iran, Hillary Clinton Used a Personal E-Mail While Secretary of State, Monica Lewinsky's Shadow in Bill Clinton Portrait

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. According to city officials, allowing that ruling to stand would jeopardize the ability of the police to “investigate crimes…”

    The court likes to remove civil liberties that stand in the way of law enforcement having an easy time at their work.

    1. What’s so frikkin’ hard about getting a warrant?

      Hell, I bet they’ve moved beyond rubber stamps (hopelessly analogue and positively 19th century), and just have an iWarrant that they can call up on their cell phones by now.

      1. What’s so frikkin’ hard about getting a warrant?

        Yeah it’s not like anyone’s ass is on the line to get it right. A judge that gives out an unjustified warrant doesn’t get tossed from the bench and a prosecutor or cop that seeks and executes an unjust warrant certainly won’t face repercussions from anyone except the exceedingly rare breed of judges who don’t reflexively offer deference to state agents.

        Warrants are so fucking easy to obtain, why they feel the need to circumvent the need for warrants is beyond me. But perhaps they’re doing it out of principle, the principle of “fuck you that’s why”. I think many prosecutors and piggies find it offensive that they should need to jump through legal hoops to do whatever the fuck they want.

        1. No way, I’ve seen many a cop-umentary (like Hawaii 5-0) on TV that shows over and over again how the poor cops can’t get some liberal judge to give them a warrant.

          Luckily for us, the hero cops are willing to take the law into their own hands and deliver justice for the people!

  2. This case, like so much of what makes it to the SCOTUS, makes me wonder how the fuck this is even up for debate. How could the 4th Amendment possibly not cover hotel guest registries? Maybe next they’ll tackle whether or not randomly searching your pockets would constitute a warrantless search.

    1. Corporations are not people and therefore do not have civil rights. This logically follows from the entire mode of thinking that businesses exist by the sufferance of the state and therefore are creatures of government rather than the citizens that own and run them.

      1. And that logic is shit. If I own a house and split ownership into a partnership with my neighbor then by that logic I would lose all rights and protections just because ‘Free Society+his neighbor=/= not a person’.

        1. If you own a house and split ownership with anyone, or even allow them to occupy it, you DO lose those rights because that person can give permission for the house to be searched, including your possessions, no warrant needed.

      2. Corporations are not people and therefore do not have civil rights.

        Troll? Idiot? Both?

        1. I think he’s illustrating the wrong headed thinking behind the state’s argument.

          Man, when did everyone get such thin skin?

          1. Nasty cold — not enough sleep.

            My sarcasm meter isn’t even turned on today.

          2. Corporations have been trimming profits in this slow recovery.

            Profit is to corporations as skin is to humans.

          3. Yes, that was my point.

    2. “You don’t have anything dangerous in your pockets do you? Let me just check.”

      It already happens.

    3. But there’s a HUGE difference between hotel registries and telephone call registries.

  3. SCOTUS defending and upholding the fourth? Don’t hold your breath. There is, over the past 40 or so years, a particular disdain for the fourth from these characters.

    Only police have more contempt for the fourth: It barely hangs on as meaningful.

  4. Not a suicide pact! The innocent have nothing to hide! Dangerous criminals keep getting off on technicalities; I saw it on TV, so it must be true!

  5. The federal government has been doing this kind of thing for years with administrative subpoenas. It just took the localities time to catch up, probably because they hate children and the poor or something.

  6. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. Right? Right?

    1. If you re-legalize victimless crimes, I’ll have nothing to hide.

      1. The pursuit of enforcement against victimless crimes have a way of exacerbating and creating actual victims to actual crimes. The existence of victimless crimes is itself a crime against justice, reason and humanity.

        1. That and by believing that they are preventing crimes with victims by focusing on victimless crimes, crimes with actual victims are largely not investigated.

          1. When I was in college my apartment was broken into repeatedly, when I went to work. I only called the cops the first time because after I filed the report the cop told me only to contact them if MY investigation yielded any results, because they were too busy dealing with more serious crimes. A couple days later I found out that the cop I spoke with was the head of the city’s “Marijuana Task Force”.

            1. Last time I called the cops after my apartment was broken into, they came and asked for permission to search the place for drugs. When I refused they left. Haven’t called the cops since. Unless I’ve got a dead body and a damn good explanation, I see no point. They do nothing or make things worse.

              A coworker’s neighbor called the cops after someone stole all her disks out of her car. The cops didn’t do anything. She went to the store down the street that sells used disks, and sure enough there they were. After getting the paperwork from the store, she went to the cops. Initially they weren’t going to do anything, but she pressed the issue. Finally they relented and followed up, but only after mocking and belittling her for doing their job (that they wouldn’t do).

              1. Last time I called the cops after my apartment was broken into, they came and asked for permission to search the place for drugs.

                Ha. Those fuckers really are subhuman pieces of garbage.

                Unless I’ve got a dead body and a damn good explanation, I see no point. They do nothing or make things worse.

                If I had something valuable stolen and I needed a police report to get insurance to payout, then I can see calling the cops, but even then it better be pretty fucking valuable for me to invite a person to my home who could kill or kidnap me with impunity.

                Finally they relented and followed up, but only after mocking and belittling her for doing their job (that they wouldn’t do).

                Sounds familiar. I found my stolen TV in a pawn shop and the cops flat out refused to follow it up. They were too busy ruining and/or ending some poor fuck’s life that day.

                1. If I had something valuable stolen and I needed a police report to get insurance to payout

                  They’ve grown tired of filing reports like this lately. You might get one to come out and write one, but you might not. Seriously. It’s gotten that bad.

            2. Yep. Wifes car was broken into 3 times in a school parking lot (in Denver). Stereo twice, the third time they think they were attempting to steal the car. Didn’t even dust for prints.

              120 years ago in Denver, a man attempting to steal another’s mode of transport would be swinging from a tree. Now, it’s more important to catch speeders and pot dealers (well, then, 97).

              1. 120 years ago in Denver, a man attempting to steal another’s mode of transport would be swinging from a tree.

                That’s actually a great point. Granted I don’t think car thieves deserve death, but at least the cops of yore actually pursued crimes, actual crimes instead of focusing their official prerogative on being criminals themselves.

  7. I’d be more interested in a case challenging the requirement for hotels to keep registries at all. What is the justification for that? I’m not sure what threat is posed by allowing people to anonymously rent a room for the night.

    Seems to me that the only purpose is exactly so that police can see who has stayed at a place.

    1. +1 Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.

      1. Is this the one where the shoot up the lobby?

        1. Loved that scene, movie was meh, but that shootout was all kinds of awesome.

    2. I’ve also never understood how the state could compel such a business practice.

    3. I’d be more interested in a case challenging the requirement for hotels to keep registries at all. What is the justification for that? I’m not sure what threat is posed by allowing people to anonymously rent a room for the night.

      There can be no justification for requiring them to keep registries. But registries are in the best interest of the property owner themselves since it’s hard to recover damages from anonymous guests when they destroy your property.

      1. I think at this point just requiring a credit card would do the job. Of course, that requires guests to identify themselves so I guess it works out to the same thing.

        1. Yeah. If we had a more freeish market I think there’d be anonymous bonding companies who would do away with the need for keeping credit cards on file in this sort of situation. Everybody would win, except the predatory state which is why we don’t have such presently.

  8. Valuing ones privacy is evidence of a crime, because why else would someone value their privacy unless they have something illegal to hide? Right? Right?

    1. Right.

      That’s why it’s entirely reasonable to have the exact location of every legislator publicly available in real time.

      1. Tracking collars for your public servants? …Racist?!

        1. Well, if you want to know where the real crooks are…

    2. Valuing ones privacy is evidence of a crime

      I’ve worked in enough hotels to conclude that this is almost certainly the case. Unless you include “adultery” which I think is wrong but not a crime.

      Unless you’re catering to such people, no hotel operator in their right mind knowingly rents rooms to “anonymous”.

      1. I’ve worked in enough hotels to conclude that this is almost certainly the case.

        Wow

  9. Patel’s main brief argues, “the Court cannot accept [the city’s] interpretation of the Fourth Amendment without simultaneously encouraging governments throughout the country to adopt similar laws providing police with unfettered access to all manner of business records.”

    *** facepalm ***

  10. What’s this expectation of privacy bullshit, anyway? That’s actually not in the Constitution.

    The only question is: do the cops want to get their mitts on “persons, houses, papers, and effect”? If so, then they need a warrant. Period.

    Its like nobody can read plain English anymore.

    1. Expectation of privacy is a legal test, and legal tests are important for the reading of laws. If a guy planted a camera in your wife’s toilet and uploaded the the feed to the interwebs, that would be a violation of her privacy since she has a reasonable expectation of privacy in that situation. If your wife were shitting in the middle of Time Square and someone uploaded the video to the interwebs that would not be a violation of her privacy as one could not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that situation.

      1. Legal test:

        do the cops want to get their mitts on “persons, houses, papers, and effect”? If so, then they need a warrant.

        1. That’s not so much a legal test as it is a commonly disregarded fact of statist law.

    2. The constitution was written in that fancy, high-brow English, not in the current vernacular.

    3. The 4th Amendment is qualified with “their persons, houses, papers, and effects” and a reasonableness standard.

      SCOTUS has interpreted that to mean that a person should possess a reasonable expectation of privacy to the specific property seized. I believe this is a dangerous limitation as it allows illegal government seizures which cannot be remedied unless the property rights of the defendant were directly violated.

      For example (as illustrated in the recent Silk Road case), a defendant doesn’t have a 4th Amendment exclusion argument for property that he doesn’t own or otherwise have a possessory interest in.

  11. The fourth amendment is not ambiguous, the LA pigs are obviously in the wrong here. The question at hand is whether they’re acting blatantly enough that the shysters pretending to be impartial judges have to admit that the pigs are wrong.

    -jcr

    1. The fourth amendment is not ambiguous

      And the LA cops requirement is not unreasonable. Oh, you think it is unreasonable? Maybe it is a bit ambiguous after all.

      1. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        Unreasonable:

        Searches without warrants
        Searches without probable cause to obtain warrant
        Searches without oath of affirmation to obtain warrant
        Searches without the warrant describing the place to be searched
        Searches without the warrant describing the things or persons to be seized

        Not real hard, unless your intent is to grant the government more power than the Founders intended.

        1. Not real hard, unless your intent is to grant the government more power than the Founders intended.

          Which is the intent of 99.9% of everyone who is in government, has ever worked in government and will ever work in government.

  12. allowing that ruling to stand would jeopardize the ability of the police to “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.”

    Ya mean, kinda like the Fourth Amendment intended?

    1. Ohz noez! Prostitution and gambling. Quick, get me to my fainting couch!

      COMPLY COMMONER!

  13. I started with my online business I earn $58 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out.
    For information check this site. ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  14. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do,
    http://www.wixjob.com

  15. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing,
    http://www.work-mill.com

  16. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing,
    http://www.work-mill.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.