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City of Los Angeles v. Patel

EFF filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that individuals should be able to bring so-called facial challenges to laws that violate the Fourth Amendment by authorizing unconstitutional warrantless searches.

Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49 requires hotel operators to maintain certain guest registry information and to make that information available to police officers on request without consent, a warrant or other legal process. Hotels that refuse to comply do not have a chance to challenge the request in court and can be punished with jail or a fine. In an en banc opinion, the Ninth Circuit found that § 41.49 violates a clear Fourth Amendment rule: Anyone subject to an “administrative search” must be allowed to object to a court before they can be punished for failing to comply. Administrative searches are warrantless, suspicionless searches performed for reasons unrelated to crime enforcement. The City of Los Angeles petitioned for certiorari and the Supreme Court granted review.  

However, the Supreme Court also agreed to review the question of whether the Fourth Amendment even allows the hotel owners to bring a "facial" challenge that says the law is unconstitutional as written. EFF's brief points out that the Supreme Court has allowed such lawsuits in the past and explains that they are key to protecting individuals’ constitutional rights. Particularly in an era of pervasive electronic surveillance, EFF argues, Fourth Amendment facial challenges are crucial to guard against laws that invade privacy.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion agreed with EFF, found it could consider a facial challenge under the Fourth Amendment and ruled the hotel ordinance violated the constitution.

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