In Los Angeles, where Ben Braddock registered as Mr. Gladstone before starting his affair with Mrs. Robinson, hotel and motel operators are required by law to be nosy. They may not say, “Welcome to my inn, where your business is your own,” for they must record each guest’s name and address; the number of people in her party; her date and time of arrival; her planned date of departure; her room number; the rate she is paying; her method of payment; her ID number if she failed to reserve in advance, paid cash, or rented for 12 hours or less; and information on her vehicle (forcing her to return to the parking lot to take down the plate number).
This registration information must be stored for 90 days. Front desk employees must be trained to record it per municipal regulations. And they must turn it over to authorities when given a lawful subpoena or search warrant. But what if an LAPD officer comes to the lobby, sans warrant, and demands to inspect these records?
The city has sought to force innkeepers to comply with any such request from any police officer. A law declared any failure to make guest records available for police inspection a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. It wouldn’t matter if a rookie LAPD officer arrived on his own initiative and demanded the registration card of a Black Lives Matter organizer in town for a conference or an actress whose home address he hoped to pilfer. The innkeeper could not refuse. The nosy cop could arrest the innkeeper immediately if he dared try.