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Name: City of Los Angeles v. Patel
Case #: 13-1175
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/22/2015

City ordinance that requires hotel operators to make guest records available to police for inspection is facially unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment because it fails to provide hotel operators with an opportunity for precompliance review. Petitioner, the City of Los Angeles, required hotel operators to record and retain certain specific information about their guests for a 90-day period (L.A. Mun. Code, § 41.49). The ordinance mandates that the records “shall be made available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection.” (L.A. Mun. Code, § 41.49(3)(a)) A hotel operator’s failure to comply with this requirement is a misdemeanor. Respondents, a group of hotel operators, challenged the ordinance on Fourth Amendment grounds. The federal district court entered a judgment in favor of the City. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that section 41.49 is facially invalid. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari. Held: Affirmed. Here, the Court considered whether section 41.49 falls within the administrative search exception to the Fourth Amendment and concluded that it did not. Absent consent, exigent circumstances, or the like, in order for an administrative search to be constitutional, the subject of the search must be afforded an opportunity to obtain precompliance review before a neutral decisionmaker. Section 41.49 does not afford hotel operators any opportunity at all. “Absent an opportunity for precompliance review, the ordinance creates an intolerable risk that searches authorized by it will exceed statutory limits, or be used as a pretext to harass hotel operators and their guests.” The hotel owner need only be given the opportunity for precompliance review. Actual review is required only when a hotel operator objects to turning over the records. The Court also concluded that hotels are not a “closely regulated” industry and the more relaxed standard that applies to searches of this category of businesses did not apply in this case. [Editor’s Note: The Court clarified that “facial challenges under the Fourth Amendment are not categorically barred or especially disfavored.”]