United States v. Miller

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Mitch Miller
LOCATION: A bank

DOCKET NO.: 74-1179
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 425 US 435 (1976)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1976
DECIDED: Apr 21, 1976

ADVOCATES:
D. L. Rampey, Jr. - for the respondent
Lawrence G. Wallace - Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States

Facts of the case

Mitch Miller was charged of carrying alcohol distilling equipment and whiskey on which liquor tax had not been paid. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) issued subpoenas to two of Miller's banks, The Citizens & Southern National Bank of Warner Robins and the Bank of Byron requesting records of Miller's accounts. The banks complied with the subpoenas, and the evidence was used during Miller's trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Miller was convicted and appealed his conviction alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in his favor.

Question

Were Miller's bank records illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Media for United States v. Miller

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1976 in United States v. Miller

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 21, 1976 in United States v. Miller

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in number 74-1179, United States against Miller will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

The respondent, in this case, was convicted of possessing a 175 gallons of whiskey upon which he had paid no taxes.

Prior to his trial, he moved to suppress copies of his checks, deposit slips and other bank records deemed by him to be incriminating.

These records have been obtained by subpoenas duces tecum served upon two banks in which respondent maintained accounts.

The banks maintained these records in accordance with the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.

The District Court declined to suppress the records but the Court of Appeal reversed in concluding that the records had been obtained by defective subpoenas, thereby violating respondent's Fourth Amendment rights.

We take a different view, the records subpoenaed were not respondent's private papers rather they were business records of the banks even with respect to the original checks and deposit slips copied by the banks, respondent having made these available to a third party could have had no legitimate expectation of privacy in that contents.

The depositor takes the risk, in revealing his affairs to another in the course of commercial transactions that the information maybe conveyed to the Government.

We conclude therefore that there was no intrusion upon protected Fourth Amendment interest of respondent and that the District Court correctly denied respondent's motion to suppress.

Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall, each filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Powell.