Police Department Says It Will No Longer Be Accepting Motel 6's Nightly Guest Lists
from the too-much-potential-downside,-apparently dept
In a remarkably swift turnaround — no doubt prompted by some media backlash — the Warwick, RI, police department has announced it will no longer be accepting late night guest list faxes from Motel 6.
Police Chief Stephen M. McCartney has discontinued the short-lived practice of accepting a copy of the Motel 6 daily guest list to see if any of the lodgers should be investigated.
He said he was concerned about the legal ramifications of the practice, including the possibility that the list could become a public record under the state’s Access to Public Records Act. He said an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the city also would have been possible.
“The information is sensitive,” McCartney acknowledged Friday. “All we’re doing is raising a lot of eyebrows about things that we quite frankly don’t need to have.”
It should be noted that the Warwick PD never asked for this information in the first place. This was all on Motel 6, with an assist from Mayor Scott Avedisian. While there were concerns about criminal activity at the motel, it appeared to be mayoral and council pressure that prompted Motel 6’s move, rather than demands from the police department.
It was Mayor Avedisian who smugly announced “We know everyone who is staying in the motel tonight,” and it was Mayor Avedisian who was hoping to use Motel 6’s obsequiousness as leverage to obtain similar nightly lists from other hotels and motels in the area. But it appears all of that is now off the table. If the police aren’t going to accept or use the lists, what’s the point in making anyone send these over?
The mayor — who immediately claimed the faxed guest list was already leading to arrests — has his assertion toned down by the police chief when he stated his department wasn’t actually running criminal background checks on guest names.
On April 14, Mayor Scott Avedisian reported that there had been four arrests on undisclosed charges arising from the motel having provided the guest list. On Friday, McCartney qualified that statement, saying that the arrests over nine or 10 days might or might not have been the result of checking the list.
Receiving the information would have allowed the police to inquire about each name in their own records or in criminal databases, but McCartney said that since the policy was announced, that had not been done.
“I was collecting the data but I was not doing anything with it,” he disclosed.
The police still retain the privilege of stopping by and taking a look at the guest list whenever it wants to — something similarly enjoyed by police departments across the nation. This warrantless access to motel records is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court, but for now, these are still nothing more than “business records” afforded no expectation of privacy thanks to the Third Party Doctrine.
The policy going forward will be checking on motel guests lists only when there’s a “reasonable suspicion” that a guest may be wanted for or involved in criminal activity, which is certainly more protective of guests’ privacy than running guests lists against criminal databases every 24 hours.
The Motel 6 has also posted a sign notifying potential guests that their information may be turned over to law enforcement, something that may encourage criminals to stay elsewhere and give the privacy-conscious heads up that renting a room nullifies a lot of privacy expectations.
Filed Under: guest lists, hotels, privacy, rhode island, warwick
Companies: motel 6
Comments on “Police Department Says It Will No Longer Be Accepting Motel 6's Nightly Guest Lists”
The Warwick, RI, police department has announced it will no longer be accepting late night guest list faxes from Motel 6… instead they will send an email. Back to you Chuck.
I stayed at one recently and there was a taped business card from the local pd with the fax number and a handwritten note about sending the fax over daily.
Talk about a major screw-up. I expect that Motel 6 will receive a lot of negative publicity over this one.
a riff in there using the “but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express… ” ad setup, but I just can’t tease it out.
No apologies for demanding them in the first place?
Well, no, because the police did not ask for them. (It sounds like the info delivery bemused the police more than anything else.) And the mayor is a creepy jackass. And the people who voted the mayor into office are idiots.
The reality of liability
Yes, the liability got them. If a city has the lists and doesn’t use them and misses a bad guy: well then that city gets sued by…
…the motel’s occupants.
…the dead occupant’s families.
…the motel’s employees.
…and/or the motel’s neighbors.
Which, in this case, means…
…every motel’s occupants.
…every dead occupant’s families.
…every motel’s employees.
…and/or every motel’s neighbors.
And then city’s lawyers all had a Richter 9 panic attack and then…
Way back in the 1990s (and probably earlier), Las Vegas hotels were compiling photocopies of everyone’s driver’s license when they checked in, and the police would drop by every day to pick up the stack of photocopies. These days it could very well be done electronically, rather than having a police car drive in every day.
Whatever the big deal is with Motel 6 in Warwick, RI, it seems that many hotels nationwide have routinely been doing this sort of thing for decades.
Unconstitutional? Perhaps, but so are so many other things that it’s hard to keep count, and this is probably one of the least invasive of the unconstitutional violations that we are victimized by virtually every day.
We will leave the light on, since our night vision surveillance equipment got lost in the post. Heaven help them if John Rambo checks in.
can the hotel also....
Can the hotel also have their employees listen in on any landline calls made by people staying a the hotel?
perhaps record those calls..
perhaps have the maid take a peek through your luggage while she’s in there to look for “something suspicious”..
No longer accepting faxes from Motel 6...
That’s because they’ve converted to spreadsheets attached to an e-mail, much more efficient, wouldn’t you say?