Our firm filed yet another amicus curiae brief in our continuing effort to revitalize and extend the property basis of the Fourth Amendment. Here the case involved applying the Fourth Amendment to protect certain commercial records of hotels — guest registers.
Our brief was filed on behalf of Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, U.S. Justice Foundation, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Downsize DC Foundation, DownsizeDC.org, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Policy Analysis Center.
A group of Los Angeles hotel owners challenged a Los Angeles city ordinance which authorizes police to search through the hotels’ guest registers without a warrant. The City claimed that hotel owners have no expectation of privacy in a business record that they are required to keep by the City. And the City claimed it has a significant interest in fighting crimes committed in and around the hotel property. Thus, the City asserted that, in such a highly regulated industry, there is no need for probable cause, much less a warrant. In short, Los Angeles argued that the Fourth Amendment does not apply.
We point out in our brief that business records located in commercial establishments and personal papers located in a private residence are both private property, and that both are equally protected by the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, the very roots of the Fourth Amendment can be traced directly to James Otis’ 1761 opposition to the Crown’s use of writs of assistance against merchants — allegedly to deter smuggling and other crimes.