The DEA learned through an informant the defendant had ordered fifty gallons of ether (commonly used to process cocaine). The government obtained a court order to install and monitor a beeper in one of the cans of ether. With the informant’s consent, the DEA substituted their own can of ether, containing a beeper, for one of the cans of ether in the shipment.
The agents saw the defendant pick up the ether from the informant, followed him to his home, and determined by using the beeper that the ether was inside the residence. The ether was moved several other times. Finally, the ether was transported to a house rented by Horton, Harley and Steele. Using the beeper, agents determined that the can was inside the house, and obtained a search warrant for the house, based in part on information derived through the use of the beeper. The agents executed the warrant and seized cocaine.
1. Whether the installation of the beeper was lawful?
2. Whether the monitoring of the beeper inside the residences was a search?
No Fourth Amendment right was infringed by the installation of the beeper. The consent of the informant to install the beeper was sufficient. The transfer of the beeper- laden can to the defendant was neither a search nor a seizure, since it conveyed no information that he wished to keep private, and did not interfere with anyone’s possessory interest in a meaningful way. Whether the installation and transfer would have been a violation of the Fourth Amendment under a Jones analysis is unclear.
The monitoring of the beeper in a private residence, an area of reasonable expectation of privacy, is a search. As this search was conducted without a warrant, it violated the Fourth Amendment. The government, by the surreptitious use of a beeper, obtained information that it could not have obtained from outside the curtilage of the house.
However, the officers, by surveillance and other investigation, had sufficient facts to constitute probable cause. They could not use information derived from the beeper while it was located inside the residence.
468 U.S. 705, 104 S. Ct. 3296 (1984)