Police can now demand your phone's passcode

Police can now demand your phone's passcode
Up until recently, no law enforcement officer could make you unlock your phone for them. That all changed when a US court ruled that police can make you unlock your handset with the fingerprint scanner, but not with a password or passcode.

This is why when the state of Florida charged a man with third-degree voyeurism, and obtained a warrant to search his iPhone 5 for incriminating photos, the case stalled. It appears that a trial judge denied permission to the police to force the man to give his passcode. According to said judge, this would be the same as testifying against himself, which is a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The case reached the Florida Court of Appeal, though, and the decision was reversed. This basically grants the police the right to make the suspect give up his passcode. According to the Court of Appeal, this will not violate the Fifth Amendment, as the police already knows that the photos are very likely to be on that phone's memory.

“Providing the passcode doesn not 'betray any knowledge [the suspect] may have about the circumstances of the offenses' for which he is charged,” said Judge Anthony Black. “Thus, 'compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence' for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant based upon evidence independent of the accused's statements linking the accused to the crime does not offend the privilege.”

The trial judge based his decision on a U.S. Supreme Court case, where it was ruled that a suspect may be forced to surrender a key to a strongbox, but not a wall safe combination. Therefore, the iPhone's passcode must also be protected, according to said judge.

The appeals court thinks otherwise, though. “We question whether identifying the key which will open the strongbox – such that the key is surrendered – is, in fact, distinct from telling an officer the combination,” Judge Black said.

In the end of the day, Judge Black decided that “this is a case of surrender and not testimony” due to the fact that the state already knew it could find evidence on the handset through other means, and obtained a warrant based on this knowledge.

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source: CourthouseNews via Engadget

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22 Comments

3. Gandalfdenvite

Posts: 18; Member since: Dec 15, 2016

And Trump will allow the police to use torture to make you give up your passcode!

5. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

What a totally backward, asinine ruling.

7. AlikMalix unregistered

Well I think my memory is getting sketchy now that I'm getting older. I hope I have enough tries before my iPhone locks me out and deletes my content.

9. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2280; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Change the headline to US police can now demand your phone's passcode

14. lyndon420

Posts: 6868; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

They're trying to do the same thing here in Canada.

44. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

Did this Florida court base its ruling on Canada's model? Can we finally blame Canada? Blame Canada? Blame Canada? Blame Canada?

16. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1345; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

We still have the right to remain silent and they can't actually force you to do anything.

22. bambamboogy02

Posts: 842; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

It's the same as obtaining a warrant, and searching your belongings for evidence, just like they can take your computer, if they need be. So what's the issue?

46. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

This Florida court says that police officers CAN force you to enter your passcode. The penalty is likely contempt of court (punishable by a fine or a jail sentence, usually the jail sentence runs until you comply with the court and then the fine is added) and can actually result in additional misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on Florida's penal code. The right to remain silent actually comes from the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination, and forms the basis of US "Miranda Warnings". However, the right against self-incrimination only extends to "testimonial evidence". What the court likely found here is that the passcode and contents of the phone were not actually "testimonial evidence" and therefore not covered by the fifth amendment. This means that the police would have every right to demand the passcode, a court would enforce the demand by order or subpoena, and the contents would be fair game to be used as evidence against you.

50. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

*Florida police

19. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

They can demand all they want but that doesnt mean im going to give them what they want.

21. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

What's the matter...? Why everyone is so upset here...? If you've nothing to hide, then why hide it...? I'm sure that those who are complaining have never been into the shoes of a policeman... Don't get me wrong, I'm no former or perhaps retired policeman, nor I've a 'policeman' ancestry... But I've great respect for what they do... THEY SERVE US... And ask nothing in return... WE ALL OWE THEM OUR LIVES... We probably wouldn't be alive without their oaths and services... TO PROTECT AND SERVE... They've to endure verbal abuses, gun shots, racial motivated slurs, drunk individuals, death threats, Gang warnings and God knows what on a daily basis... Now don't get me wrong, I've deep respect for my privacy, and that's one of the major reasons I refuse to be on Facebook... But for them, I'd go to any length to make their day a tad less miserable... Whenever I'm out on my motorcycle, I wave at each & every squad car I come across, give them a Thumbs-Up and sometimes a crude salute... And that's the least I can do for them... And I never miss an opportunity to nod at a fellow motorcyclist, specially a motorcycle policeman... And just in case you're wondering; its The Bikers Brotherhood...! We look out for each other... Waving and nodding at each other to let us know that we are not alone on two wheels...! Oh well... G'Day!

28. gersont1000

Posts: 473; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

I agree with what you say about cops, but this won't really affect cops. It will basically help only after you've been arrested, at which point you're not really a threat to them anymore.

49. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

Police officers aren't volunteers, they are paid (sometimes, highly paid) government employees. They serve the public in theory, but report a stolen bicycle and see what happens. Get arrested and see how well you are treated (whether you committed a crime or not, is irrelevant. You are supposed to be presumed innocent until found guilty either by a jury of your peers or by admission as part of a plea arrangement with the prosecuting body). Considering that most people have the bias toward assigning guilt for anyone arrested, and that prosecuting bodies (District/City/Federal attorneys) have the entire police department and government resources at their disposal, giving the police an additional advantage when any defendant has an uphill battle to prove his/her innocence is not a good thing. I'm sure many police officers are wonderful people, I have just seen too many lie in favor of "making a case", irrespective of the objective truth. I don't mean I've seen this on TV shows, I mean I have seen this happen a number of times in an actual courtroom and in other sworn statements/written testimony. Also, it shouldn't matter how miserable your day is when you carry a gun and two magazines of hollow-point ammunition everywhere you go - the officer always needs to be under control. From recent reports all over America, we have evidence that at least SOME officers are not conducting themselves properly. I personally think giving police officers greater opportunity to convict you, or even an opportunity to peer into your life via typed statements on your personal device is improper, and a step in the wrong direction.

24. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

This needs to be decided by the Supreme Court. If the police have a warrant they can break down my door. So let them try to break my phone. If they force me to do it I will enter the wrong code enough times to wipe the phone.

41. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

If police officers break down your door, and you don't expect it, you'll be too busy soiling your pants to do anything but exactly what the police tell you to do. Pulling out a dark object out of a pocket during a bust is also a sure-fire way to get yourself tazed or worse (pardon the pun). If you are expecting the police to break down your door, and if you are not stupid, you don't have anything incriminating on the phone the police find on you subsequent to your arrest.

30. bossman

Posts: 264; Member since: Jan 27, 2016

What would be the ruling on iris scanners.

38. skyjet15

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 24, 2012

The title of this article is misleading. It should say, "Police can now demand your phone's passcode... in Florida" If you want to add, "...to no one's surprise", that's cool too. The reason is that an Appeals Court ruling in Florida does not necessarily affect any other state if the matter was filed in a state appeals court, and would only affect a few other states in the circuit if this matter was filed in Federal Court. I am not familiar with Florida's state system, but no state court's jurisdiction extends beyond the state itself, though a clever attorney may use a state law at the federal level given the right circumstances (I don't think anyone wants the boring details). Even at the federal level, the 11th circuit, of which Florida is a part, comprises only Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and has (virtually) no effect, on, any other states. This is even more true if the state courts or other Fed. Circuits have ruled in opposition to the Florida court's decision. Therefore, this does not apply to the rest of the US until either the US Supreme Court takes this case, decides the matter and agrees with this (backwards) Florida court, or if every other Fed. Circuit follows Florida's lead (there are 10 other federal circuit court jurisdictions and one in Washington D.C.). Let's hope that doesn't happen.

58. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

That is all fine and dandy, but if you forget (on set of amnesia) your password, lets say, there is nothing they can do about it. On the other hand, no pun, they can grasp your hand and force it on the scanner, or even lift the finger prints. That is only the beginning, hacker can lift prints, and OEMS may be storing your prints, including data in their servers. I'm sure they have a back door to their devices.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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