City of L.A. v. Patel

135 S. Ct. 2443 (2015)



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.


The city of Los Angeles (City) through its municipal code required hotel operators to record and keep specific information about their guests on the premises for a 90-day period. The code also required such records to be made available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection on demand, otherwise, the hotel operator may be held criminally liable for misdemeanor. Respondents, 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 respondents 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 are subjected to punishment for failure to turn over their records without first being afforded the opportunity for precompliance review.


Does the warrantless search of hotel records for general inspection purposes fall under the administrative-search exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment?




Judgement affirmed. A facial challenge could be brought under the Fourth Amendment which required hotel operators to make their registries available to the police on demand. Facial challenges under the Fourth Amendment were not categorically barred or especially disfavored. The disputed provision of the municipal code was facially unconstitutional because it failed to provide hotel operators with an opportunity for precompliance review. In addition, hotels were not a closely regulated industry that would lack a reasonable expectation of privacy. Also, warrantless inspections were not necessary to further the regulatory scheme, and the ordinance did not sufficiently constrain police officers' discretion as to which hotels to search and under what circumstances.

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