Bank Records in Los Angeles Investigations and Criminal Cases
Most people consider their finances to be a private matter. Whether it be their personal use of money, or the cash flow of their business, financial transactions reveal a great deal about people. It reveals their interests and values. It reveals their priorities, and it may reveal some things that appear suspicious without proper context. When it comes to a personal or family business, financial transactions can show if a person is able to meet their debt obligations, whether their products are priced well for the market, and even whether their industry is underserved, allowed high profit margins that would lure in competitors if it were not secret. A business may rightly feel that many of their trade secrets and unique approaches to their industry could be exposed through an analysis of their financial transactions.
However, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in Los Angeles wishes to look at the bank records for an individual or a business, they do not even need a search warrant. They merely need to send a subpoena, which can be supported by any relevant investigation. It could be that there is suspicion of drug trafficking or money laundering. However, it can also be just a check on the legitimacy of an application for government aid. The government seeks records from banks and employers for individuals receiving CalFresh or CalWORKS. Discrepancies can lead to charges of welfare fraud and perjury.
Even if the government did not suspect an individual of a certain type of fraud, while looking through financial transactions they may find something new and pass it on to another agency. This can lead to suspicion for various financial crimes that never would have been suspected if government workers had not been snooping through bank account transactions. A business may come under suspicion of tax evasion. A medical service provider could be accused of Medical Insurance Fraud. There are a great many financial crimes that may be investigated. Even if the individual has innocent explanations for transactions, it can be hard to interrupt the momentum of a government investigation.Third Party Doctrine
Since 1886 the United States Supreme Court had prohibited making a person turn over their “private papers” to be used against them in a criminal case. Ledgers and lists of financial transactions had traditionally been a key component of private papers. The principles of the Fourth Amendment seemed poised to keep financial documents private. However, with the rise of modern banking, the Supreme Court embraced the Third Party Doctrine. This doctrine states that when a person voluntarily gives information over to a third party, that information is no longer private, and the person loses their Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy.
The Court explored how this doctrine affected banking records in US v. Miller. The Court reiterated previous holdings stating that a third party may turn over papers to the government without penalty, even if the person who entrusted the papers to the third party did so for a limited purpose and under the assumption that the documents would be kept secret. The Court found this doctrine fully applicable to bank records, finding that there were no Fourth Amendment protections for a person’s activity in using a bank and the bank’s services. That means that each time a person writes a check, makes a deposit, or swipes a debit card, the government can look at that transaction. This is of course true of Apple and Android Pay, Venmo, PayPal, and every other financial service app that is available.
While at the time the United States Constitution was written, a wealthy person might have been able to conduct business without the use of a bank, commerce outside of the banking system, if at all possible, is now considered highly suspicious. In all commerce, the government assumes that they will be able to monitor all transactions, or if not, find a way to probe into transactions that produce cash, services, or debt as repayment for goods and services. It is not uncommon for a bold investigator to overstep even the broad authority granted to the government. When this happens, a suppression motion is necessary to limit the use of evidence, and to reign in the ever-expanding reach of government financial investigators.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively litigate search and seizure issues on behalf of his clients.
For more information about Los Angeles police investigations, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.