The city of Reidsville, North Carolina has passed an ordinance that allows police access to hotel and motel guest records without a court order. The police chief wanted this power to pursue drug investigations. The local lodging association is opposed.
I’m not a legal expert, and I make no judgment as to the permissability of this type of ordinance under state or federal constitutional protections. I am skeptical of state power and prefer at least the formal protection of requiring a court order to compel private individuals and businesses to provide information to the police.
What concerns me the most, though, about this is the cavalier attitude that the City Attorney takes towards important questions of liberty and government power.
- Reidsville City Attorney Bill McLeod said that any constitutional questions were for the courts to decide.
“Laws are passed all the time that may or may not survive scrutiny,” he said.
Shouldn’t the city government have a duty to be concerned with rights, and not pass ordinances which they believe likely violate constitutional protections? And shouldn’t the city attorney take pains to appear to consider these types of questions seriously?
Passing the buck to the courts, suggesting that protecting constitutional rights is somebody else’s job, is troubling to say the least.
(Thanks to Samir for the pointer.)