MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondent was convicted of possessing an unregistered still, carrying on the business of a distiller without giving bond and with intent to defraud the Government of whiskey tax, possessing 175 gallons of whiskey upon which no taxes had been paid, and conspiring to defraud the United States of tax revenues. 26 U. S. C. §§ 5179, 5205, 5601 et seq.; 18 U. S. C. § 371. Prior to trial respondent moved to suppress copies of checks and other bank records obtained by means of allegedly defective subpoenas duces tecum served upon two banks at which he had accounts. The records had been maintained by the banks in compliance with the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, 84 Stat. 1114, 12 U. S. C. § 1829b (d).
On December 18, 1972, in response to an informant's tip, a deputy sheriff from Houston County, Ga., stopped a van-type truck occupied by two of respondent's alleged co-conspirators. The truck contained distillery apparatus and raw material. On January 9, 1973, a fire broke out in a Kathleen, Ga., warehouse rented to respondent. During the blaze firemen and sheriff department officials discovered a 7,500-gallon-capacity distillery, 175 gallons of non-tax-paid whiskey, and related paraphernalia.
Two weeks later agents from the Treasury Department's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau presented grand jury subpoenas issued in blank by the clerk of the District Court, and completed by the United States Attorney's office, to the presidents of the Citizens & Southern National Bank of Warner Robins and the Bank of Byron, where respondent maintained accounts. The subpoenas required the two presidents to appear on January 24, 1973, and to produce
The banks did not advise respondent that the subpoenas had been served but ordered their employees to make the records available and to provide copies of any documents the agents desired. At the Bank of Byron, an agent was shown microfilm records of the relevant account and provided with copies of one deposit slip and one or two checks. At the Citizens & Southern National Bank microfilm records also were shown to the agent, and he was given copies of the records of respondent's account during the applicable period. These included all checks, deposit slips, two financial statements, and three monthly statements. The bank presidents were then told that it would not be necessary to appear in person before the grand jury.
The grand jury met on February 12, 1973, 19 days after the return date on the subpoenas. Respondent and four others were indicted. The overt acts alleged to have been committed in furtherance of the conspiracy included three financial transactions—the rental by respondent of the van-type truck, the purchase by respondent of radio equipment, and the purchase by respondent of a quantity of sheet metal and metal pipe. The record does not indicate whether any of the bank records were in fact presented to the grand jury. They were used in the investigation and provided "one or two" investigatory leads. Copies of the checks also were introduced at trial to establish the overt acts described above.
In his motion to suppress, denied by the District Court, respondent contended that the bank documents were illegally seized. It was urged that the subpoenas were
The Government contends that the Court of Appeals erred in three respects: (i) in finding that respondent had the Fourth Amendment interest necessary to entitle him to challenge the validity of the subpoenas duces tecum through his motion to suppress; (ii) in holding that the subpoenas were defective; and (iii) in determining that suppression of the evidence obtained was the appropriate remedy if a constitutional violation did take place.
In Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293, 301-302 (1966), the Court said that "no interest legitimately protected by the Fourth Amendment" is implicated by governmental investigative activities unless there is an intrusion into a zone of privacy, into "the security a man relies upon when he places himself or his property within a constitutionally protected area." The Court of Appeals, as noted above, assumed that respondent had the necessary Fourth Amendment interest, pointing to the language in Boyd v. United States, supra, at 622, which describes that Amendment's protection against the "compulsory production of a man's private papers."
On their face, the documents subpoenaed here are not respondent's "private papers." Unlike the claimant in Boyd, respondent can assert neither ownership nor possession. Instead, these are the business records of the banks. As we said in California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, supra, at 48-49, "[b]anks are . . . not . . . neutrals in transactions involving negotiable instruments, but parties to the instruments with a substantial stake in their continued availability and acceptance." The records of respondent's
Respondent argues, however, that the Bank Secrecy Act introduces a factor that makes the subpoena in this case the functional equivalent of a search and seizure of the depositor's "private papers." We have held, in California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, supra, at 54, that the mere maintenance of records pursuant to the requirements of the Act "invade[s] no Fourth Amendment right of any depositor." But respondent contends that the combination of the recordkeeping requirements of the Act and the issuance of a subpoena
Respondent urges that he has a Fourth Amendment interest in the records kept by the banks because they are merely copies of personal records that were made available to the banks for a limited purpose and in which he has a reasonable expectation of privacy. He relies on this Court's statement in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 353 (1967), quoting Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 304 (1967), that "we have . . . departed from the narrow view" that " `property interests control the right of the Government to search and seize,' " and that a "search and seizure" become unreasonable when the Government's activities violate "the privacy upon which [a person] justifiably relie[s]." But in Katz the Court also stressed that "[w]hat a person knowingly exposes to the public . . . is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection." 389 U. S., at 351. We must examine the nature of the particular documents sought to be protected in order to determine whether there is a legitimate "expectation of privacy" concerning their contents. Cf. Couch v. United States. 400 U.S. 322, 335 (1973).
Even if we direct our attention to the original checks and deposit slips, rather than to the microfilm copies actually viewed and obtained by means of the subpoena, we perceive no legitimate "expectation of privacy" in their contents. The checks are not confidential communications but negotiable instruments to be used in commercial transactions. All of the documents obtained, including financial statements and deposit slips, contain only information voluntarily conveyed to the banks and exposed to their employees in the ordinary course of business. The lack of any legitimate expectation of privacy concerning the information kept in bank records was assumed by Congress in enacting the Bank Secrecy Act, the expressed purpose of which is to require records
The depositor takes the risk, in revealing his affairs to another, that the information will be conveyed by that person to the Government. United States v. White, 401 U.S. 745, 751-752 (1971). This Court has held repeatedly that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities, even if the information is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third party will not be betrayed. Id., at 752; Hoffa v. United States, 385 U. S., at 302; Lopez v. United States, 373 U.S. 427 (1963).
This analysis is not changed by the mandate of the Bank Secrecy Act that records of depositors' transactions be maintained by banks. In California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U. S., at 52-53, we rejected the contention that banks, when keeping records of their depositors' transactions pursuant to the Act, are acting solely as agents of the Government. But, even if the banks could be said to have been acting solely as Government agents in transcribing the necessary information and complying without protest
Since no Fourth Amendment interests of the depositor are implicated here, this case is governed by the general rule that the issuance of a subpoena to a third party to obtain the records of that party does not violate the rights of a defendant, even if a criminal prosecution is contemplated at the time the subpoena is issued. California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, supra, at 53; Donaldson v. United States, 400 U.S. 517, 537 (1971) (Douglas, J., concurring). Under these principles, it was firmly settled, before the passage of the Bank Secrecy Act, that an Internal Revenue Service summons directed to a third-party bank does not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of a depositor under investigation. See First National Bank of Mobile v. United States, 267 U.S. 576 (1925), aff'g 295 F. 142 (SD Ala. 1924). See also California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, supra, at 53; Donaldson v. United States, supra, at 522.
Many banks traditionally kept permanent records of their depositors' accounts, although not all banks did so and the practice was declining in recent years. By requiring that such records be kept by all banks, the Bank Secrecy Act is not a novel means designed to circumvent established Fourth Amendment rights. It is merely an attempt to facilitate the use of a proper and longstanding law enforcement technique by insuring that records are available when they are needed.
Respondent contends not only that the subpoenas duces tecum directed against the banks infringed his Fourth Amendment rights, but that a subpoena issued to a bank to obtain records maintained pursuant to the Act is subject to more stringent Fourth Amendment requirements than is the ordinary subpoena. In making this assertion he relies on our statement in California Bankers Assn., supra, at 52, that access to the records maintained by banks under the Act is to be controlled by "existing legal process."
In Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 208 (1946), the Court said that "the Fourth [Amendment], if applicable [to subpoenas for the production of business records and papers], at the most guards against abuse only by way of too much indefiniteness or breadth in the things required to be `particularly described,' if also the inquiry is one the demanding
In any event, for the reasons stated above, we hold that respondent lacks the requisite Fourth Amendment interest to challenge the validity of the subpoenas.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The court deferred decision on whether the trial court had improperly overruled respondent's motion to suppress
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.
The pertinent phrasing of the Fourth Amendment— "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated"—is virtually in haec verba as Art. I, § 19, of the California Constitution— "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable seizures and searches, shall not be violated." The California Supreme Court has reached a conclusion under Art. I, § 19, in the same factual situation, contrary to that reached by the Court today under the Fourth Amendment.
In Burrows v. Superior Court, 13 Cal.3d 238, 529 P.2d 590 (1974), the question was whether bank statements or copies thereof relating to an accused's bank accounts obtained by the sheriff and prosecutor without
The California Supreme Court also addressed the question of the relevance of California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21 (1974). In my view, for the reasons stated in Burrows, the decision of the Court of Appeals under review today, is in no way inconsistent with California Bankers.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.
In California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21 (1974), the Court upheld the constitutionality of the recordkeeping requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. 12 U. S. C. § 1829b (d). I dissented, finding the required maintenance of bank customers' records to be a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and unlawful in the absence of a warrant and probable cause. While the Court in California Bankers Assn. did not then purport to decide whether a customer could later challenge the bank's delivery of his records to the Government pursuant to subpoena, I warned:
Today, not surprisingly, the Court finds respondent's claims to be made too late. Since the Court in California
I wash my hands of today's extended redundancy by the Court. Because the recordkeeping requirements of the Act order the seizure of customers' bank records without a warrant and probable cause, I believe the Act is unconstitutional and that respondent has standing to raise that claim. Since the Act is unconstitutional, the Government cannot rely on records kept pursuant to it in prosecuting bank customers. The Government relied on such records in this case and, because of that, I would affirm the Court of Appeals' reversal of respondent's conviction. I respectfully dissent.
We are not confronted with a situation in which the Government, through "unreviewed executive discretion," has made a wide-ranging inquiry that unnecessarily "touch[es] upon intimate areas of an individual's personal affairs." California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U. S., at 78-79 (POWELL, J., concurring). Here the Government has exercised its powers through narrowly directed subpoenas duces tecum subject to the legal restraints attendant to such process. See Part IV, infra.
In any event, for present purposes I would accept the Court of Appeals' conclusion that the subpoenas in this case were defective. Moreover, although not relied upon by the Court of Appeals, neither the bank nor the Government notified respondent of the disclosure of his records to the Government. In my view, the absence of such notice is not just "unattractive," ante, at 443 n. 5; a fatal constitutional defect inheres in a process that omits provision for notice to the bank customer of an invasion of his protected Fourth Amendment interest.
"QUESTION: Why can't you argue all of this as being contrary to the law and the Constitution of the State of Michigan?
"MR. ZIEMBA: I can because we have the same provision in the Michigan Constitution of 1963 as we have in the Fifth Amendment of the Federal Constitution, certainly.
"QUESTION: Well, you argued the whole thing before.
"MR.ZIEMBA: In the Court of Appeals?
"MR. ZIEMBA: I really did not touch upon—I predicated my entire argument on the Federal Constitution, I must admit that. I did not mention the equivalent provision of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, although I could have. And I may assure this Court that at every opportunity in the future, I shall.
"QUESTION: But you hope you don't have that opportunity in this case.
"MR. ZIEMBA: That's right." Tr. of Oral Arg. 43-44 (O. T. 1975, No. 74-653).