United States v. Miller (1976)

Last updated
United States v. Miller
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 12, 1976
Decided April 21, 1976
Full case nameUnited States v. Miller
Citations425 U.S. 435 ( more )
96 S. Ct. 1619; 48 L. Ed. 2d 71
Case history
Prior500 F.2d 751 (5th Cir. 1974); rehearing en banc denied, 508 F.2d 588 (5th Cir. 1975); cert. denied, 421 U.S. 1010(1975).
Holding
Bank records are not subject to protection under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr.  · Potter Stewart
Byron White  · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun  · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist  · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityPowell, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Blackmun, Rehnquist, Stevens
DissentBrennan
DissentMarshall

United States v. Miller , 425 U.S. 435 (1976), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that bank records are not subject to protection under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [1] The case, along with Smith v. Maryland , established the principal of the third-party doctrine in relation to privacy rights.

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about one hundred to one hundred fifty of the more than seven thousand cases that it is asked to review.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, it sets requirements for issuing warrants: warrants must be issued by a judge or magistrate, justified by probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the installation and use of the pen register was not a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and hence no warrant was required. The pen register was installed on telephone company property at the telephone company's central offices. In the Majority opinion, Justice Blackmun rejected the idea that the installation and use of a pen register constitutes a violation of the "legitimate expectation of privacy" since the numbers would be available to and recorded by the phone company anyway.

Contents

Background

In 1973, sheriffs for Houston County, Georgia discovered an undocumented whiskey distillery, first by seizing a truck with distillery equipment and arresting its drivers, and later investigating a warehouse fire in the town of Kathleen and discovering distillery equipment there. They identified the warehouse property leaser as Mitch Miller of Georgia. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF) of the United States Treasury Department, investigating the case, requested that local banks, holding Miller's accounts, provide all paperwork of his bank transactions to date via a grand jury subpoena duces tecum, rather than a warrant; the banks complied without notifying Miller. The financial records supported evidence that Miller had rented the truck, radio equipment, and sheet metal to support the distillery, and he and four others were charged with conspiracy (by selling tax-free whiskey), possession of distilled spirits, and possession of an unregistered still.

Houston County, Georgia County in the United States

Houston County is a county located in the central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. The estimated 2016 population is 152,122. Its county seat is Perry, although the city of Warner Robins is substantially larger in both area and population.

Kathleen, Georgia Place in Georgia, United States

Kathleen is an unincorporated community in Houston County, Georgia, United States. It is part of the Warner Robins, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is home to roughly 11,500 people.

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, statutorily named the Tax and Trade Bureau and frequently shortened to TTB, is a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, which regulates and collects taxes on trade and imports of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms within the United States.

The trial was held at the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. During the defense, Miller attempted to prevent the bank records from being submitted as evidence, claiming these were illegally obtained, as such records should be protected from illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The District Court rejected Miller's arguments, and resulted in a conviction with a sentence of three years in prison for Miller. Miller argued on the use of bank records as evidence to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the District Court's findings. Miller had attempted to argue that the Bank Secrecy Act, which required banks to make microfilm copies of all checks they processed, was unconstitutional, the Firth Circuit recognized that the Supreme Court had validated the Act's constitutionality through California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, [2] but this did not allow for the types of actions that the ATF used. The Fifth Circuit cited Boyd v. United States for the proposition that "a compulsory production of a man's private papers to establish a criminal charge against him...is within the scope of the Fourth Amendment". [3] The court ruled that the Bank Secrecy Act did not overrule Fourth Amendment protections, and overturned the District Court's ruling. [4]

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia is a United States District Court which serves the residents of sixty-nine counties from seven divisions from its headquarters in Macon, Georgia.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit federal court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following federal judicial districts:

Bank Secrecy Act 1970 act of the United States Congress

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA), also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, is a U.S. law requiring financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, file reports if the daily aggregate exceeds $10,000, and report suspicious activity that may signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities.

Supreme Court

The government petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, asking whether the privacy rights of the Fourth Amendment covered the method that the ATF had acquired the bank records. Oral arguments were presented on January 12, 1976, with a decision issued on April 21, 1976.

The majority decision was given by Justice Lewis Powell, with all but Justices Brennan and Marshall joining, reversing the Fifth Circuit's decision. Powell determined that the bank records were not the private papers of Miller, but instead owned by the banks as part of its necessary business operations. Reiterating points made in California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, Powell stated that there is no expectation of privacy that a customer of a bank has when they do business through the bank, as checks, deposit slips and other paperwork are elements of commercial transactions. The Supreme Court remanded Miller's case back to the Fifth Circuit.

Lewis F. Powell Jr. American judge

Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from 1971 to 1987. Powell compiled a conservative record on the Court and cultivated a reputation as a swing vote with a penchant for compromise.

Justice William J. Brennan Jr. dissented, identifying that a similar case, Burrows v. Superior Court, [5] had been decided in the California Supreme Court that ruled that bank records were protected under the Fourth Amendment, in a manner consistent with California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, which the Court could have used for this case. Justice Thurgood Marshall also dissented, reiterating his dissent from California Bankers Ass'n that he believed the Bank Secrecy Act was unconstitutional and would lead to violation of Fourth Amendment rights.

William J. Brennan Jr. American judge

William Joseph Brennan Jr. was an American judge who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990. As the seventh longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, he was known for being a leader of the Court's liberal wing.

Thurgood Marshall American judge

Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer, serving as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's 96th justice and its first African-American justice. Prior to his judicial service, he successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education.

Impact

United States v. Miller, along with Smith v. Maryland , [6] which dealt with the privacy of telephone records, established the concept of a third-party doctrine that has been used by the courts to determine to what extent Fourth Amendment protection expectation of privacy covers. This doctrine generally finds that information that a person provides voluntarily to a third-party no longer is covered by expectation of privacy, and the government can obtain such information without a warrant. [7]

The third-party doctrine is a United States legal theory that holds that people who voluntarily give information to third parties—such as banks, phone companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and e-mail servers—have "no reasonable expectation of privacy." A lack of privacy protection allows the United States government to obtain information from third parties without a legal warrant and without otherwise complying with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against search and seizure without probable cause and a judicial search warrant.

See also

Related Research Articles

Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case discussing the nature of the "right to privacy" and the legal definition of a "search" of intangible property, such as electronic-based communications like telephone calls. The Court's ruling refined previous interpretations of the unreasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment to count immaterial intrusion with technology as a search, overruling Olmstead v. United States and Goldman v. United States. Katz also extended Fourth Amendment protection to all areas via the "Katz test" to determine when a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy". The Katz test has been used in numerous cases, particularly with the advancement of technology that pose new questions on expectations of privacy.

California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.

Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), held in a 5–4 decision that the use of a thermal imaging, or FLIR, device from a public vantage point to monitor the radiation of heat from a person's home was a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus required a warrant.

Expectation of privacy is a legal test which is crucial in defining the scope of the applicability of the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is related to, but is not the same as, a right to privacy, a much broader concept which is found in many legal systems.

National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court case involving the Fourth Amendment and its implication on drug testing programs. The majority of the Court upheld the drug testing program in United States Customs Service.

Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67 (2001), is a United States Supreme Court decision that found Medical University of South Carolina's policy regarding involuntary drug testing of pregnant women to violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that the search in question was unreasonable.

In United States criminal law, the border search exception or doctrine is a doctrine that allows searches and seizures at international borders and their functional equivalent without a warrant or probable cause. The doctrine is not regarded as an exception to the Fourth Amendment, but rather to its requirement for a warrant or probable cause. Balanced against the sovereign's interests at the border are the Fourth Amendment rights of entrants. Not only is the expectation of privacy less at the border than in the interior, the Fourth Amendment balance between the interests of the government and the privacy right of the individual is also struck much more favorably to the government at the border. This balance at international borders means that routine searches are "reasonable" there, and therefore do not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription against "unreasonable searches and seizures".

California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386 (1985), was a United States Supreme Court case which held that a motor home was subject to the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution because the motor home was readily movable.

United States v. White, 401 U.S. 745 (1971), was a United States Supreme Court decision which held that recording conversations using concealed radio transmitters worn by informants does not violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and thus does not require a warrant.

Ontario v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010), is a United States Supreme Court case concerning the extent to which the right to privacy applies to electronic communications in a government workplace. It was an appeal by the city of Ontario, California, from a Ninth Circuit decision holding that it had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of two of its police officers when it disciplined them following an audit of pager text messages that discovered many of those messages were personal in nature, some sexually explicit. The Court unanimously held that the audit was work-related and thus did not violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

<i>United States v. Warshak</i>

United States v. Warshak is a criminal case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit holding that government agents violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights by compelling his Internet service provider (ISP) to turn over his emails without first obtaining a search warrant based on probable cause. However, constitutional violation notwithstanding, the evidence obtained with these emails was admissible at trial because the government agents relied in good faith on the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The court further declared that the SCA is unconstitutional to the extent that it allows the government to obtain emails without a warrant.

Mancusi v. DeForte, 392 U.S. 364 (1968), is a decision of the United States Supreme Court on privacy and the Fourth Amendment. It originated in the lower courts as United States ex rel. Frank DeForte, appellant v. Vincent R. Mancusi, Warden of Attica Prison, Attica, New York, appellee, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a prisoner who had exhausted all his state appeals. By a 6–3 margin the Court affirmed the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit's reversal of a district court denial of the petition.

<i>United States v. Graham</i>

United States v. Graham, 846 F. Supp. 2d 384, was a Maryland District Court case in which the Court held that historical cell site location data is not protected by the Fourth Amendment. Reacting to precedent established by the recent Supreme Court case United States v. Jones in conjunction with the application of the third party doctrine, Judge Richard D. Bennett, found that "information voluntarily disclosed to a third party ceases to enjoy Fourth Amendment protection" because that information no longer belongs to the consumer, but rather to the telecommunications company that handles the transmissions records. The historical cell site location data is then not subject to the privacy protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment standard of probable cause, but rather to the Stored Communications Act, which governs the voluntary or compelled disclosure of stored electronic communications records.

<i>United States v. Davis</i> (2014)

United States v. Quartavious Davis is a United States federal legal case that challenged the use in a criminal trial of location data obtained without a search warrant from MetroPCS, a cell phone service provider. Mobile phone tracking data had helped place the defendant in this case at the scene of several crimes, for which he was convicted. The defendant appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the warrantless data collection had violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but declined to order a new trial because the evidence was collected in good faith. The Eleventh Circuit has since vacated this decision pending a rehearing by the Eleventh Circuit en banc. United States v. Davis, 573 Fed. Appx. 925. On 5 May 2015, the en banc order upheld the use of the information. On 9th Nov 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear this case on appeal.

Los Angeles v. Patel, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a Los Angeles law, Municipal Code § 41.49, requiring hotel operators to retain records about guests for a ninety-day period is facially unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution because it does not allow for pre-compliance review.

Carpenter v. United States, No. 16-402, 585 U.S. ____ (2018), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case concerning the privacy of historical cellphone location records. The Court held, in a 5–4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, that the government violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by accessing historical records containing the physical locations of cellphones without a search warrant. “In the 5-4 decision, the Court ruled “narrowly” in favor of privacy, finding the government had constitutionally violated Mr. Carpenter’s reasonable expectation of privacy by acquiring this private information without a warrant.”

California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21 (1974), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the Bank Secrecy Act passed by Congress in 1970, requiring banks to record all transactions and report certain domestic and foreign transactions of high dollar amounts to the United States Treasury, did not violate the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that prison inmates have no privacy rights in their cells protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court also held that an intentional deprivation of property by a state employee "does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment if an adequate postdeprivation state remedy exists," extending Parratt v. Taylor to intentional torts.

References

  1. United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976).
  2. California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21 (1974).
  3. Boyd v. United States , 116 U.S. 616 (1886).
  4. United States v. Miller, 500 F.2d 751 (5th Cir. 1974), reh'g denied, 508 F.2d 588 (5th Cir. 1975).
  5. Burrows v. Superior Court, 13 Cal. 3d 238, 529 P.2d 590 (1974).
  6. Smith v. Maryland , 442 U.S. 735 (1979).
  7. Villasenor, John (December 30, 2013). "What You Need to Know about the Third-Party Doctrine". The Atlantic . Retrieved June 22, 2018.