12 U.S.C. § 3414(b) excepts government access to financial records in narrowly-limited emergency situations where any delay would create imminent danger of physical injury, serious property damage or flight from prosecution. No customer notice is required in such situations. To avoid abuse of this provision, records may be obtained only if the certification of compliance is made by a supervisory official of a rank designated by the head of the government authority seeking access. (The Attorney General has re-delegated to heads of Departmental units this authority to designate supervisory officials for certification.) In addition, the government must file in court within 5 days thereafter a sworn statement by the supervisory official justifying use of the emergency exception and (unless a court order delaying notice is obtained pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 3409(c)) must notify the customer as soon as practicable that his or her records were obtained. An example of a situation justifying use of the emergency exception would be a kidnapping case where financial records might lead to location of the victim or suspect.
Updated December 18, 2015