â€œIt was being used to circumvent case law and proper court procedure to obtain privacy information,â€ Seiders said. â€œThe police were using these local laws to avoid having to go through judicial review. I think thatâ€™s where it became abusive.
More than a decade ago, a group of hotel owners sued Los Angeles. Now their actions have caused reverberations in hotels throughout the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 22 in City of Los Angeles v. Patel that the police practice of asking for a hotelâ€™s guest registry without a warrant is unconstitutional.
â€œItâ€™s certainly providing privacy protection and extending it to companies, both to the company owner and the guests that are there. Itâ€™s certainly a win for the hotels,â€ Attorney Dana Kravetz said.
â€œThis is going to have widespread impact â€“ and already has had widespread impact â€“ on a host of cities and really the industry at large. Itâ€™s a powerful decision. It really sets it out pretty clearly as to what the police can or cannot do.â€
This ruling goes beyond Los Angeles as so many other U.S. cities have similar ordinances, said Kravetz, managing partner of Michelman & Robinson and chair of the law firmâ€™s hospitality group.
â€œItâ€™s really a great day for the hotel industry,â€ said Frank Weiser, the attorney for the group of hotel owners (Patel). â€œItâ€™s a great day for businesses throughout America.â€
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In order to create and follow an eviction policy that promotes compliance with the Fourth Amendment, a hotel should identify behaviors that justify eviction. Â This requires consultation of the law, including any statutes that govern hotel policies. Â The hotel should then train its staff to recognize and respond to behavior that triggers eviction. Â A hotel should also provide guests with its eviction policy or communicate in some way the types of behavior that could trigger an eviction. Â Finally, in the event of an eviction, the hotel must take steps to communicate to the guest that he or she is being evicted.
Hotels are faced with a delicate balancing act when it comes to maintaining guest privacy. Â Hotel staff must comply with police investigations when noncompliance would constitute obstruction of justice. Â At the same time, hotel employees must recognize their guestsâ€™ Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Â If hotel employees comply with an unreasonable search or seizure that results in harm to the guest, the hotel could find itself exposed to civil liability.
Courts have recognized that the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches and seizures in hotel and motel rooms. Â Certain exceptions allow for warrantless searches and seizures, including consent. Â In broad terms, the consent exception means that a partyâ€™s agreement, actual or implied to a search and/or seizure renders a warrant unnecessary.
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