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Although the owner of a lock has a privacy interest in a keyhole, enough to make the inspection of that lock a "search," the privacy interest is so small that the officers do not need probable cause to inspect it. Because agents are entitled to learn a suspect's address without probable cause, the use of a key to accomplish that objective does not violate the fourth amendment.
Defendant, Gamalier Concepcion, consented to the search of his apartment, which he had previously denied knowing anything about. His consent was given after Drug Enforcement Administration agents informed him that his key opened the apartment's lock. In the apartment the agents found cocaine. Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 841. He appealed the judgment of the district court that sentenced him to 41 months’ imprisonment, and contended that his consent was the fruit of two unlawful searches.
Was the defendant’s consent to the search of the apartment a fruit of two unlawful searches?
The court affirmed and found that defendant had no expectation that goings-on in the common areas of his apartment building would remain his secret because a tenant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas of an apartment building. The court determined that the agents properly arrested defendant without a warrant, and that they properly searched his pockets and seized his keys without a warrant. The court held that because agents were entitled to learn a suspect's address without probable cause, the use of defendant's key to accomplish that objective did not violate the fourth amendment.