A federal appeals court has held that evidence seized during a premises search of a taxpayer's home by armed IRS agents, possibly in violation of statutory authority, was nevertheless admissible.

In a case of first impression at the federal appellate level, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has held that evidence seized during a premises search by armed IRS agents, possibly in violation of statutory authority, was nevertheless admissible.

In the case, U.S. v. Charles Adams, Adams was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the collection of payroll taxes, and two counts of tax evasion. During the pretrial proceedings, Adams moved unsuccessfully to suppress evidence obtained in a search of his home. 

He argued that the statute, Section 7608 of the Tax Code, does not authorize such a search in his case. Section 7608(a), which deals with IRS enforcement of laws pertaining to alcohol, tobacco and firearms, explicitly allows agents enforcing those law to carry guns. However, Subsection (b), which deals with IRS enforcement of other tax laws, contains no similar grant of explicit permission to carry guns.

Adams’s attorney argued that the absence of any such explicit permission in Subsection (b) indicates an intent by Congress to prohibit IRS agents enforcing those laws from carrying firearms.  Because the agents who searched his home were armed and were not investigation any offense involving alcohol, tobacco, or firearms, Adams argued that the search was unlawful and the evidence seized should therefore be suppressed.

The evidence was admitted, and, after a jury trial, Adams was found guilty on all three counts.

Both the District Court and the First Circuit, for purposes of the decision, assumed that the agents who executed the search violated Section 7608 because they were armed. Suppression of evidence, however, was not the appropriate remedy, according to the First Circuit. The fact that the agents were armed had no impact either on the scope of the search or on the extent of the evidence collected.

“So viewed, the supposed violation was not a but-for cause of procuring the evidence,” the court stated in a ruling Monday.  “The Constitution was not implicated and suppression was, therefore, unwarranted.”

The court did not answer the question as to whether or not Section 7608 definitively prohibits armed IRS agents from performing home searches in offenses that do not involve alcohol, tobacco or firearms.