United States v. Miller - 425 U.S. 435 (1976)


U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976)

United States v. Miller

No. 74-1179

Argued January 12, 1976

Decided April 21, 1976

425 U.S. 435

Syllabus

Respondent, who had been charged with various federal offenses, made a pretrial motion to suppress microfilms of checks, deposit slips, and other records relating to his accounts at two banks, which maintained the records pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (Act). He contended that the subpoenas duces tecum pursuant to which the material had been produced by the banks were defective, and that the records had thus been illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Following denial of his motion, respondent was tried and convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed, having concluded that the subpoenaed documents fell within a constitutionally protected zone of privacy.

Held: Respondent possessed no Fourth Amendment interest in the bank records that could be vindicated by a challenge to the subpoenas, and the District Court therefore did not err in denying the motion to suppress. Pp. 425 U. S. 440-446.

(a) The subpoenaed materials were business records of the banks, not respondent's private papers. Pp. 425 U. S. 440-441.

(b) There is no legitimate "expectation of privacy" in the contents of the original checks and deposit slips, since the checks are not confidential communications, but negotiable instruments to be used in commercial transactions, and all the documents obtained contain only information voluntarily conveyed to the banks and exposed to their employees in the ordinary course of business. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities. The Act's recordkeeping requirements do not alter . these considerations so as to create a protectable Fourth Amendment interest of a bank depositor in the bank's records of his account. Pp. 441-443.

(c) Issuance of a subpoena to a third party does not violate a defendant's rights, even if a criminal prosecution is contemplated at the time the subpoena is issued. California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U. S. 21, 416 U. S. 53. Pp. 425 U. S. 444-445.

Page 425 U. S. 436

(d) Access to bank records under the Act is to be controlled by "existing legal process." That does not mean that greater judicial scrutiny, equivalent to that required for a search warrant, is necessary when a subpoena is used to obtain a depositor's bank records. Pp. 425 U. S. 445-446.

500 F.2d 751, reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., post, p. 425 U. S. 447, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 425 U. S. 455, filed dissenting opinions.



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