LEVYING A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX

By Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon of Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

I am a child of the 1980's and a huge movie fan. One of my childhood favorites is The Goonies. The Goonies search for a hidden treasure in order to save their neighborhood. While our post judgment collection activities are never as exciting as the adventure of the Goonies or another of my favorites, Indiana Jones, occasionally our post judgment work is exciting. One such instances is levying on a safe deposit box.

The way to reach a safe deposit box is by doing a bank levy. A bank levy is an order you serve on the financial institution that tells the institution to turn over the money held by your judgment debtor up to the amount that will satisfy the judgment. When the levy hits a safe deposit box owned by the judgment debtor, they are essentially locked out of access to the box to remove contents and the Sheriff sets a date for the opening of the box. The judgment creditor usually pays an additional fee for opening the safe deposit box which includes a fee for a locksmith to open the box and sheriff to appear and take the property in the box into their possession. 

On one occasion, I decided that I would attend to see first hand what it was like when the safe deposit box was opened. Upon my arrival at the bank I spoke with the Sheriff's Deputy who was supervising the opening of the box. He asked me what sort of expectation I had for the experience. This was only the second or third time our office had opened a safe deposit box so I told him I didn't really have any. He mentioned to me that in his almost 20 years of experience doing this sort of levy they had a 20% hit rate where they found anything of value. The Sheriff's Deputy opened the box and we saw two items in the box. One was a thick dirty looking envelope and the other was a jewelry box. The deputies first turned to the jewelry box and when they opened it they found several rings, chains and cufflinks. Next the Sheriff opened the tattered envelope. We were all pretty surprised when the envelope revealed a large stash of cash about an inch thick. We took to the pile of money to the counterfeit detection and money counting device. The total amount of cash was five figures. The deputy told me that it was the biggest haul he had seen from a safe deposit box levy in his career.

While it wasn't as good as finding One Eyed Willie's rich stuff, it moved us closer to satisfying another judgment.