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City of L.A. v. Patel - 135 S. Ct. 2443 (2015)

Rule:

A facial challenge is an attack on a statute itself as opposed to a particular application. While such challenges are the most difficult to mount successfully, the U.S. Supreme Court has never held that these claims cannot be brought under any otherwise enforceable provision of the Constitution. Instead, the Court has allowed such challenges to proceed under a diverse array of constitutional provisions. Fourth Amendment challenges to statutes authorizing warrantless searches are no exception.

Facts:

Pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49., the city of Los Angeles (City), required hotel operators to record and keep specific information about their guests on the premises for a 90-day period. The records were to be made available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection at a time and in a manner that would minimize any interference with the operation of the business. The Code further stated that a hotel operator's failure to make the records available was a criminal misdemeanor. A  group of motel operators and a lodging association brought a facial challenge to § 41.49(3)(a) on Fourth Amendment grounds. The District Court entered judgment for the City, finding that the operators and association lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in their records. The Ninth Circuit subsequently reversed, determining that inspections under § 41.49(3)(a) are Fourth Amendment searches and that such searches are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because hotel owners were subjected to punishment for failure to turn over their records without first being afforded the opportunity for pre-compliance review.

Issue:

Was § 41.49(3)(a) of the Los Angeles Municipal Code facially unconstitutional?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States held that Section 41.49(3)(a) was facially unconstitutional because it failed to provide hotel operators with an opportunity for pre-compliance review before it gave its guest registry to the police for inspection. Actual review need occur only when a hotel operator objects to turning over the records. This opportunity, according to the Court, can be provided without imposing onerous burdens on law enforcement. The Court also held that Section 41.49 is also constitutionally deficient under the “certainty and regularity” prong of the closely regulated industries test because it fails sufficiently to constrain police officers’ discretion as to which hotels to search and under what circumstances. The Court affirmed the judgment.

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