The Supreme Court announced this week that it would consider another privacy case; this time involving the issue of whether or not police can demand to see and inspect hotel guest registries without cause and without a warrant.
Several cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver according to the New York Times, have ordinances that require hotel managers to hand over their guest registries – which include personal information such as guests’ names, license plate number, home addresses, and even credit card number – to authorities.
According to the Wall Street Journal, such information is critical to vice squads keeping tabs on prostitution, gambling and even drugs. Or, in the case of Los Angeles, according to Ars Technica, even terrorism.
Los Angeles motel owners Naranjibhai and Ramilaben Patel, with several other motel owners ultimately joining the lawsuit, sued to stop enforcement of Los Angeles’ ordinance, which placed hotel owners who refused such searches in danger of a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, according to The Recorder.
The case has made its way through the appellate courts system, and the most recent decision was handed down by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the hotel owners. Judge Paul Watford, writing for the majority, said that the only information hotel owners should have to give to police without a warrant is its pricing and occupancy information – that is, information available to potential customers.
“Businesses do not ordinarily disclose, and are not expected to disclose, the kind of commercially sensitive information contained in the records. [Hotel owners have] the right to exclude others from prying into the contents of its records.”
However, the City of Los Angeles has appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The City argues that the government has a compelling interest in knowing who is in its boundaries, particularly when those people might be transients.
“These 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 Supreme Court has heard a variety of privacy-rights cases in recent sessions, most recently ruling that police need a warrant to track vehicles via GPS, according to this Inquisitr report.
Do you believe that the police should be able to inspect hotel guest registries at a moment’s notice and without a warrant? Let us know what you think in the Comments below.
[Image courtesy of: United Liberty]