Think that our Washington laws on search and seizure are tougher than our federal laws? Well think again … at least as applied to the searching and seizing of bank, phone and email records.
On Thursday the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a little known state law that allows the government to get bank records without a search warrant. Under the 1971 law, the government is permitted to get a person’s bank records, phone records and even possibly email records without showing ‘probable cause’ that a crime has been committed; they can get these items under the lesser standard – ‘reason to suspect’ a crime. The information is obtained by way of a subpoena issued via a secret hearing called a ‘special inquiry judge proceeding’. This proceeding allows a judge to issue a subpoena for evidence such as bank, phone or email records, at the request of a prosecutor who has reason to suspect a crime has been committed. The person whose records are obtained is not even necessarily informed of the subpoena, and he doesn’t even really have a right to challenge the validity of the subpoena regardless of whether his is charged with a crime. Thursday’s decision upheld a conviction of a man who authorities claim swindled $1.7 million in a real estate scam. The majority of the court (there were two dissenting justices) equated the special inquiry judge proceeding to a federal grand jury, which has the authority to issue subpoenas for bank records at any time.
Regardless of the situation, if you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, you should immediately seek the advice of a qualified Seattle criminal defense attorney before resolving their case. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether cited for a driving theft, a driving offense, prostitution, possession and/or distribution of drugs, assault, property destruction or some other law violation, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys immediately.