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Subpoenas for Records

The fourth amendment of the U.S. constitution not only protects an individual from unreasonable searches and seizures but also protects him/her from having to disclose documents and other information.  However, probable cause for the issuance of an administrative summons is not the same as in the criminal law.

An individual cannot claim an expectation of privacy in the business records of a third party and hence no interest is protected by the fourth amendment[i].  Similarly, an individual cannot challenge subpoenas directed at business records that covers his/her transaction in the possession of a third party on the basis of fourth amendment.  Such an individual has no right to notice of such subpoenas[ii].

Even if an administrative subpoena is broad, the courts are ready to enforce the same as far as it does not demand the production of any irrelevant documents[iii].  The main requirements of the administrative subpoenas are that it must be limited in scope, relevant and specific in order to avoid the unreasonable burden.

[i] People v. Pearson, 169 Cal. App. 3d 319 (Cal. App. 5th Dist. 1985)

[ii] United States v. House, 524 F.2d 1035 (3d Cir. 1976)

[iii] United States v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632 (U.S. 1950)

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