LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The LA City Council is debating whether police should be allowed to inspect hotel and motel registries without first obtaining a warrant.

A recent appeals court ruled in favor of motel owners saying the ability to check guest records without a warrant was unconstitutional because it violated Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.

Two council members argue the ruling took away a powerful tool used by the LA Police Department in their fight against prostitution, drug sales and other illegal activity at motels. The searches began with the passing of a city law in 2008.

The law was called into in question in December by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which supported motel owners in the case Patel v. City of Los Angeles.

Council members Nury Martinez and Felipe Fuentes will introduce a council motion this week that would direct staff to report back on the court ruling. It would also direct city attorneys and the police department to report back on strategies to continue efforts to quell illegal activity at motels.

Obtaining warrants might be the only way to compel hotel and motel owners to open their registries, but in “some instances … there isn’t always time to do warrants,” Fuentes said.

The motion will first be evaluated by the Public Safety Committee.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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