(DailyVantage.com) – A three-justice panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a decision from a lower court, now ruling that a safety deposit box raid conducted by the FBI in Beverly Hills is considered a violation of the constitutional rights of the owners of the safety deposit boxes.
The FBI conducted the raid in 2021, ostensibly to “inventory” the contents of the boxes – 1,400 in all. The seizure of the contents of the boxes, either collectively or individually, was not conducted under the auspices of any warrant. The FBI justified the raid by saying that the establishment – U.S. Private Vaults – where the boxes were kept was suspected of engaging in money laundering activities. All the boxes were rented to private citizens.
According to the court’s decision, the FBI raid violated the box holders’ Fourth Amendment rights that prohibit unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure. The agency also cataloged the contents of the boxes they opened, which the appeals court also considered a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. As such, the court also ordered the FBI to destroy any and all records of the items they inventoried, which included lists of items of box holders who were found not guilty of any crime and had their property returned to them. The court’s decision also covers records the FBI entered under the Sentinel law enforcement database.
There are, however, box holders whose property is still being held by the FBI, citing federal forfeiture laws. These box holders are suing the agency in order to get back their property, and the decision of the appeals court may help them accomplish that.
When sought for comment, the FBI declined to issue a statement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, through its spokesperson Thom Mrozek, said that their office was prepared to destroy the catalogs and inventory lists they collected from the raid.
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