A Los Angeles law that requires hotels to make their guest registries available to law enforcement without a warrant was struck down yesterday by the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision, the National Law Journal reports. The ordinance failed under the Fourth Amendment because hotel operators were not given an opportunity for judicial review before police searched the guest registries. Without such a review, there would be “an intolerable risk that searches … will exceed statutory limits, or be used as a pretext to harass hotel operators and their guests,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The ruling does not require a review of all law enforcement requests to search hotel guest registries, Sotomayor stressed. Instead, hotel operators must only be given an opportunity to ask a “neutral decision-maker” to review a law enforcement request before he or she faced penalties for refusing to comply. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the more-liberal justices to form a majority. Dissenter Antonin Scalia wrote that setting up obstacles to law enforcement's ability to check guest registries undermines the purpose of the ordinance, which was to deter criminals from using hotels for illicit purposes by forcing them to identify themselves at check-in.