Monday, June 17, 2019
Judges Reject Contention That Hotel Room Is Open to the Public
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man who refused to leave a hotel after the management announced that occupants of a room where a noisy party was taking place were being evicted was properly arrested by Santa Clara police for trespassing, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Friday in affirming a summary judgment in favor of officers accused in a civil rights action of unlawful force and arrest.
In a memorandum opinion, a three-judge panel rejected the contention by partygoer Daniel Garcia that if an arrest on any charge were appropriate, it would have been for a violation of California Penal Code §602.1 which provides, in part:
“Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business or occupation carried on by the owner or agent of a business establishment open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or their customers, and who refuses to leave the premises of the business establishment after being requested to leave by the owner or the owner’s agent, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the owner or owner’s agent, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
Instead, he was arrested for trespassing under Penal Code §602(o) which applies to refusing to leave property “not open to the general public.”
The memorandum opinion declares:
“We reject Garcia’s argument that California Penal Code § 602(o) does not apply. A hotel room—to which access is controlled by a registration process and a key—is not open to the general public as that term is used in California Penal Code § 602(c). Summary judgment was proper because the officers had probable cause to arrest Garcia under § 602(o)….”
Garcia contended that a hotel room is a public place because, under the Unruh Act, it is a public accommodation. The Ninth Circuit responded, in a footnote:
“We reject Garcia’s argument that the Unruh Act is irreconcilable with such a holding, as the Unruh Act subjects violators to civil liability for arbitrary discrimination. California Civil Code § 51 et seq. Section 602(o) does not imbue a hotel owner with a right to arbitrarily and discriminatorily evict a paying tenant.”
The opinion adds:
“Even if Garcia were correct that California Penal Code § 602.1 should be considered to be the controlling and applicable statute, summary judgment would still be proper. The officers knew that there was a loud party in Garcia’s hotel room and that the occupants had refused to quiet down even after hotel security asked them to do so. The officers also knew that the occupants had refused to leave the hotel when hotel security told them they were evicted. These facts, combined with the officers’ impressions when they arrived at the scene, are sufficient to establish probable cause that Garcia was trespassing under California Penal Code § 602.1.”
Too, the opinion says, the officers would be entitled to qualified immunity because no “clearly established law” pointed to nonapplicability of the trespassing statute.
District Court Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California granted summary judgment both in connection with the arrest of Garcia and the alleged excessive force used by officers. Friday’s opinion recites that Garcia resisted arrest, attempting to punch officers in the hallway, and declares:
“The relatively mild force that was used by law enforcement, which included a leg sweep, control holds, and a punch to the face, was reasonable under the circumstances.”
The case is Garcia v. City of Santa Clara, 17-16883.
Comprising the panel were Circuit Judges Ronald M. Gould, Sandra S. Ikuta, and Ryan D. Nelson.
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