Patel v. City of Los Angeles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 12-24-2013
  • Case #: 08-56567
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En Banc; Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Dissent by Circuit Judge Tallman; Dissent by Circuit Judge Clifton; Chief Judge Kozinski; Circuit Judges O'Scannlain, Fisher, Berzon, Callahan, M.D. Smith, Jr., Murguia, and Christen
  • Full Text Opinion

Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49, which authorizes non-consensual police searches of hotel guest records, is facially invalid under the Fourth Amendment because it does not afford an opportunity to obtain prior judicial review.

Plaintiffs-Appellants, motel owners in Los Angeles, California, challenged the validity of part of Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49. The pertinent part of § 41.49 authorizes warrantless, onsite inspection of hotel and motel records of specific guest information upon demand of any police officer. The City of Los Angeles stipulated that the provision "authorizes police officers to inspect hotel guest records at any time without consent or a search warrant." Non-compliance with a demand for inspection is a misdemeanor and punishable by "up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine." Plaintiffs brought this claim against the City of Los Angeles under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the continued enforcement of § 41.49's warrantless inspection provision. The district court rejected plaintiff's challenge and entered judgment in favor of the City of Los Angeles. Plaintiffs appealed. The Ninth Circuit en banc held that the warrantless record inspections authorized under § 41.49 were searches under the Fourth Amendment and that because the provision did not allow for "pre-compliance judicial review," the provision was not reasonable. Because the inspection authorized under the provision constituted a search and the search is not reasonable, the panel held that "§ 41.49's requirement that hotel guest records 'shall be made available to any officer …for inspection' is facially invalid under the Fourth Amendment insofar as it authorizes inspections of those records without affording an opportunity to 'obtain judicial review of the reasonablness of the demand.'" REVERSED and REMANDED.

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