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Township Rethinks Challenged Registry Law

SANATOGA PA – Lower Pottsgrove officials are re-thinking a proposal to create a local law that would require hotels, motels and other places of lodging within the township to keep, and supply upon request, a registry of their guests for authorized law enforcement and emergency management needs.

The reason: recent high court decisions make enacting such an ordinance more difficult.

A registry would have value for police or others to quickly identify by name and hometown address persons needing assistance or who may be participating in improper activities, according to Police Department Sgt. Wil James. He briefly discussed the subject with the Board of Commissioners during their Sept. 8 meeting. Chief Michael Foltz, who suggested the proposal earlier, could not attend the meeting due to appointments elsewhere.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a Los Angeles CA ordinance that permitted police to check guest registries at motels and hotels at any hour of the day or night. The 5-4 decision upheld a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said it authorized unreasonable searches, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

In the case titled Los Angeles vs. Patel, The Times reported a group of motel owners went to court alleging the spot checks late at night were intrusive and disruptive for motel-operating families. The Supreme Court rejected the law as unconstitutional, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing that motel owners deserve the right to go to a judge and object before a search occurs.

James said Foltz intended to further discuss the issue with township Solicitor Robert Brant. The chief has noted in the past that his officers have been increasingly called to lodging facilities to solve law-related problems. Many of those calls, he added, were placed by motel desk clerks responding to complaints from other guests.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Sept. 8 meeting):

Photo from Google Images

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