Privacy laws protecting the rights of hotel guests and rental property tenants also help shield drug labs, because the hotel management or landlord cannot enter uninvited unless they have a reasonable suspicion that illegal activities are being conducted, said San Francisco attorney Jim Abrams, who acts as legal counsel to the California Hotel & Motel Assn.
"Even if a guest hadn't come out of his room in a long time, usually someone will call them from the front desk to see if everything is all right," Abrams said. "It's a very ticklish circumstance, and the hotel is often the innocent victim."
Costa Mesa Police Detective Robert B. Phillips, a narcotics officer who said last week's drug lab seizure was the third one in the city since 1987, said hotel and motel operators are told to be on the alert for guests who request a secluded room, no maid service and who may be toting laboratory glassware.
"These people go in and thrash places," Podkowa said. "I've seen chemicals dripping from the walls. Sometimes they are so chemically contaminated themselves that we go in (on a bust) and find them in a stupor."
On occasion, respirator masks used by pesticide sprayers and painters are found at the labs, but for the most part, drug-makers do not use protective gear, she added.
"I've been in places where people would use the living room to do their 'cooks,' and then young children would play on the carpet afterward," said a DEA agent on drug surveillance cases, who asked that his name be withheld.