THE FBI OVERSTEPPED its constitutional authority when agents searched hundreds of safe deposit boxes without warrants in 2021, a federal appeals court ruled. The court compared the FBI’s tactics to the kind of indiscriminate searches that led to the enactment of the Bill of Rights in the first place.
In March 2021, the FBI raided U.S. Private Vaults, a safe deposit box company in Beverly Hills, California. The company marketed its services around client anonymity and privacy, which appealed to gambling rings and drug operations, but also customers who were unable to get a deposit box at their bank or simply mistrusted banks and preferred to store their valuables elsewhere.
The FBI seized millions of dollars in cash from the deposit boxes, plus a mix of jewelry, personal effects, and documents such as wills and prenuptial agreements.
In litigation filed in federal district court in May 2021, victims of the raid argued that the FBI’s search “flagrantly” violated their Fourth Amendment rights. In October 2022, the trial judge ruled there was no Fourth Amendment violation.