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Council tables vote on allowing Sheriff’s Department access to hotel registeries

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council held off Wednesday night on voting on an ordinance to let Sheriff’s deputies inspect hotel guest registries without a warrant. 

Councilman Tony Kranz, who asked the item be brought back, proposed asking hotel operators to voluntarily offer registries to law enforcement. That could avoid potential legal issues, he said.

“We don’t have a whole lot of hotels,” Kranz said. “Perhaps we can get some volunteer participation.”

He said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently looking at whether a hotel owner can be compelled by a city to offer up guest books to the Sheriff’s Department.

The Sheriff’s Department says perusing registries will make it easier to hunt criminals on the lam. Obtaining a warrant to view guest books can take days, rendering fresh leads outdated, according to a staff report.

The report goes on to state information gained could be used to track down runaway teens or those violating their probation.

No public speakers weighed in on the matter.

By law, hotels and motels must keep a record of when guests arrived, their full names, addresses and copies of their drivers’ licenses or another kind of official identification. It’s required the data is stored for three years.

Eleven cities across the county let the Sheriff’s Department view hotel guests’ information.

City Attorney Glenn Sabine said the ordinance wouldn’t affect short-term vacation rentals.

The ordinance doesn’t require hotel owners to notify guests who are checking in that the Sheriff’s Department has the ability to view registries, according to Bob McSeveney, a senior management analyst with the city.

No date was set for when the item will come back for a councilmember vote.