Cops say that they can force a home full of people to unlock their phones using their fingerprints

Cops say that they can force a home full of people to unlock their phones using their fingerprints
While a Virginia Circuit Court ruled in 2014 that the cops cannot force you to unlock your phone using a passcode, they could force you to unlock your handset using a fingerprint scanner. A court filing dated May 9th of this year by the Department of Justice takes this to another level. In the filing, the government wanted authorization to force everyone inside a home to unlock their phones using their own fingerprints.

The government claimed that while it didn't know in advance which digital devices would be at the home it was going to search, "it has demonstrated probable cause that evidence may exist at the search location." Not surprisingly, defense lawyer Marina Medvin disagreed. "They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant. This would be an unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted."

The court filing mentioned Apple, Motorola, HTC and Samsung as manufacturers of phones that feature a fingerprint scanner. It revealed the government's position that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated by the cops asking for a mass fingerprint unlocking with a valid search warrant. Nor does the Fifth Amendment's protection against self incrimination apply, according to the government's filing.


Forbes spoke with a resident at the home who told them that the search warrant was served. No one at the address was ever accused of committing a crime, although it isn't known whether the cops forced those inside the home to unlock their phones using their fingerprints.

Check out the government's filing by clicking on the sourcelink.

source: DocumentCloud via Forbes

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25 Comments

1. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Knock knock Who's there? DEMOCRACY

17. MaryPoopins

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

Democracy who?

25. iSpammer

Posts: 13; Member since: Sep 20, 2014

SUCK MY DIMOCRACY BEACH

2. pongkie

Posts: 663; Member since: Aug 20, 2011

that's why I use my nipples

3. HR_19

Posts: 103; Member since: Aug 09, 2014

If this passes, I just won't ever setup fingerprints on my phone. I like the idea of quickly unlocking my phone with a fingerprint, but it's not worth it if it would enable the government to abuse their power any more than they already do.

10. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Why do you think they'll force you personally, of all the criminals around, in the first place?

22. lyndon420

Posts: 6723; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Just being a free thinker is enough these days. We have the right to remain silent, but no rights to keep us from being violated in the hands of authority.

24. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

But that's giving in to fear of what might never happen to one. The chances are slim and to live in doubt is not a good way to spend life. I won't be shaken knowing I have done nothing wrong.

4. HR_19

Posts: 103; Member since: Aug 09, 2014

If this passes, I just won't ever setup fingerprints on my phone. I like the idea of quickly unlocking my phone with a fingerprint, but it's not worth it if it would enable the government to abuse their power any more than they already do.

5. lyndon420

Posts: 6723; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I've been saying it.... haven't I lol.

6. BuckeyeCadet86

Posts: 78; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Eh, just turn off the phone when they get there, at least with an iphone it makes you put in the passcode after a reset and passcodes for some reason are protected.

11. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Same on Android, after reboot you can't use a fingerprint but must use a passcode or pattern.

7. DurTeeDee

Posts: 151; Member since: Sep 05, 2014

Iris and 8 digit pon codes for me from now on

8. Gadgetex

Posts: 194; Member since: Nov 10, 2013

Best to require a fingerprint and password together. Not so easy for them then to get in. They may be able to force you to use your finger but they can not force you to tell them your password

9. Jackdaw

Posts: 66; Member since: Mar 10, 2016

It's good that I'm using the not listed LG. :)

12. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

What about an IRIS scanner, can they force you to unlock that aswell?

13. Subie

Posts: 2350; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

That's coming next...

15. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Exactly. If they have gotten permission to use fingerprints, it's only a matter of time for this to happen too.

18. lyndon420

Posts: 6723; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Of course they can...it's a physical part of your body...they can't pry our thoughts from us yet. A main password to unlock your phone like normal, and a secondary one that we can use in emergencies to wipe our phone on the spot...that's what we need. "Want my password officer? Ok...here you go (good luck lol)".

14. dnomadic

Posts: 399; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

People -- If they can force you to use you fingerprint they can make you unlock your phone using your password. What they can't make you do is provide your passwords to them. Trust me fingerprint or Passcode they will be considered one in the same soon Just as you won't be required to hand them your thumb you will not be required to provide the password... but you unlocking that phone (unless you are dead). This could get scary for those that ride around looking "suspicious", when you get pulled over that phone will become your undoing. (You betta have two phones, one for the plug and one for the ladies)

16. Gintokichimaru

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 17, 2016

Sony knew something like this was coming. That's the real reason their fingerprint scanners don't work on the US phones

19. XperiaG

Posts: 178; Member since: Jun 06, 2016

Why everyone in here is so worried about this?? are you all criminals?? no? so why would the police ask you to unlock your phone? If you are doing right you have nothing to hide... like I just have silly images on my phone not steps to build a bomb or something...

20. chadcy

Posts: 29; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

Here in my state, the police raided the wrong home for a bust of some sort (subject premises). Now, if you were at this home and the police wanted to see your phone contents, but you have nothing to hide, why should you comply with a technically unlawful search since this home should not have been raided in the first place? This scenario is exactly why people should be concerned over rulings stated above. Although you have nothing to hide, law enforcement should not be able to just simply invade your personal digital space because they want to, and this ruling could lead to just that because any place could be labeled as a "subject premises" based on a police officers hunch or applying a broad description of a criminal to a person that may "look" like a person of interest..

23. lyndon420

Posts: 6723; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

If Marshall Law was to be enacted...we'd all be treated like criminals and herded up like cattle. Cases like this are meant to desensitize us slowly so we don't notice our rights slipping away.

21. bossman

Posts: 264; Member since: Jan 27, 2016

Dang, I have to wait the S8 and use the iris scanner for the police won't get into my phone

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