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

Amid growing concern over the increasing utilization of foreign financial institutions to evade taxes and conceal other illegal activities, Congress passed the Bank Secrecy Act. It was aimed at organized and white collar crime, and required banks and other financial institutions to maintain records of customers' names and the activity in their accounts. Moreover, the Act gave the Secretary of the Treasury broad discretion to determine what types of records and other evidence are useful in criminal, tax, or regulatory investigations or proceedings and to "prescribe regulations to carry out the purposes of this section." Pursuant to this authority, the Secretary promulgated regulations directing banks to report each deposit, withdrawal or transfer involving domestic transactions in currency of more than $10,000.

In Stark v. Conally, the Act was challenged on the ground that it was an unconstitutional invasion of citizens' right of privacy, in violation of the fourth amendment. The Stark Court originally struck down the domestic reporting provision, but in California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, the Supreme Court later upheld the Act's constitutionality, at least to the extent that it did not infringe on the rights of the financial institutions. Thus, the constitutionality of the Act has been determined, at least in a limited fashion. It must be noted, however, that the California Bankers decision "did not place the judicial stamp of approval upon every prosecutorial tactic for obtaining records compiled under the requirements of the Act.

It is the purpose of this case note to focus on the implications of United States v. Miller, a recent Supreme Court case which denied a bank depositor limited standing to challenge an illegal subpoena of his bank records. This case note will first analyze the case and then discuss its ramifications regarding future government searches of a bank depositor's bank records.

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