How ignorance from poor schooling imperils our liberties – a real-world example

Sent to me from a listener and friend of Pratt on Texas:

I had what I thought was a funny conversation with a bank teller.  I went to the Prosperity Bank branch in Austin to get some cash.  I was considering getting 4 or 5 thousand dollars.  The teller asked how much I wanted.   I couldn’t remember whether 5 or 10 thousand triggered the federal reporting requirement, but I do value my privacy.

So I asked the teller, “Do you know whether it’s 5 or 10 thousand that triggers the federal reporting requirement?”

The teller sitting next to my teller interjects – “You can withdraw as much as you want.  Did you want to withdraw 10 thousand?”

I answered Teller #2 – “I know I can withdraw whatever I want, never mind, I’ll take 4 thousand”.

As my teller begins to process the transaction, Teller #2 asks “Oh are you asking about the CTR?”

I answered “What is the CTR?”  She says “It’s nothing, it’s just a form we do but it’s no big deal.”

I said “Yes that’s probably what I was referring to.  That sound like its probably stands for ‘currency transaction report’,  I think it’s from the Bank Secrecy Act, and it was passed to avoid money laundering.  I just didn’t want to unnecessarily trigger a report.”

She looks suspicious, and ask “Are you trying to avoid the CTR?”.

I said, “No, I just don’t want the government watching my business if it can be avoided.”

She again tells me that “It’s not a big deal…”  She said “Its not for the government, it’s just something we do here at the Bank.”

I said, “No, it’s for the government, I know that much about it, I’m a lawyer and have been doing banking for a long time.”

She responded “We [the Bank] are owned by the federal government”

I responded – “No, the Bank is owned by a holding company in Brenham, Texas, which is a publicly held company owned by stockholders.

As I stood there waiting, I couldn’t resist.  Especially since this Teller #2 wasn’t busy, there was nobody else around, and my Teller was busy with my transaction.  So I asked Teller #2 “You probably don’t mind the government looking at your phone and reading your emails, do you?”

She said “No, I don’t mind, I have nothing to hide.”

So then I asked her “Would you let me look through your cell phone and look at your emails and text messages?”

She said “Well, I wouldn’t let you, personally do it unless it was on behalf of the government”.

So, I said “Suppose a police officer pulls your car over for no apparent reason, and I say “Ma’am, can I look through your cell phone to see whether you have been texting and driving?”

She responded “Sure, I never text and drive so I would let the officer look at my phone.”

Having been to law school, I know how to raise the stakes on a hypothetical, so I asked “And then if the officer asked for your consent to search your vehicle, would you allow the search?”

She answered “Yes, I have nothing to hide.”

And then I asked her, “What if somebody that’s mad at you, maybe an ex- boyfriend or roommate put drugs in your car and called an anonymous tip in to the police?  Now you go to a lawyer and you are told that you waived all your rights to object to the evidence because you consented to the search?  How would you feel then?”

She said “you must be a great lawyer”, very insincerely and a little sarcastically.

I responded, “That’s not for me to say, but I have been very successful as a lawyer.”

As I was leaving she says “I hope you have a better day!”

I stopped and turned around and said “I have had a great day – I hope you have a better day.  I guess some people just value their privacy more than others do.  Bye.”  She looked annoyed.

So, I made an effort to make the world a better place today.  I probably only succeeded in annoying one very self-righteous bank teller and amusing the other teller who witnessed the exchange.

What do you think?...

© Pratt on Texas / Perstruo Texas, Inc.