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Without question, the home is accorded the full range of Fourth Amendment protections. But when the home is converted into a commercial center to which outsiders are invited for purposes of transacting unlawful business, that business is entitled to no greater sanctity than if it were carried on in a store, a garage, a car, or on the street. A government agent, in the same manner as a private person, may accept an invitation to do business and may enter upon the premises for the very purposes contemplated by the occupant. Of course, this does not mean that, whenever entry is obtained by invitation and the locus is characterized as a place of business, an agent is authorized to conduct a general search for incriminating materials.
A federal narcotics agent, by misrepresenting his identity and stating his willingness to purchase narcotics, was invited into defendant's home where on two occasions a narcotics sale was consummated, the agent during neither of his visits seeing, hearing, or taking anything not contemplated by the defendant as a necessary part of his illegal business. The narcotics were introduced in evidence, over defendant's objection, at his trial, in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, on charges of violations of the federal narcotics laws. The District Court, sitting without a jury, convicted defendant and the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed. Defendant sought certiorari, and argued that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress testimony and evidence obtained when an agent entered defendant's home without a warrant.
Should the evidence have been suppressed for being obtained in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights?
The court granted certiorari and affirmed the appellate court. The court held that under certain factual situations, consent for an officer to enter a suspect's home could be invalidated by fraud or coercion. The court held that defendant's consent was valid because he invited the officer into his home to conduct an illegal transaction, and that to hold otherwise would unfairly hamper law enforcement officers. The court held that defendant could not argue that an entry to his home was entitled to stricter scrutiny because he was using his home as a business. According to the court, when the home was opened as a place of illegal business to which outsiders were invited for commercial purposes, the Fourth Amendment was not violated when a government agent entered pursuant to the invitation.