Police raid funeral home to get fingerprints from a corpse to unlock his phone

Police raid funeral home to get fingerprints from a corpse to unlock his phone
In this day and age, perhaps this story isn't terribly surprising. Let's start at the beginning. On March 23rd, police in Largo, Florida shot and killed 30-year old Linus F. Phillip at a Wawa gas station (Google it). The cops were about to search Phillip when he started to flee in his car. Fast forward to a few days later when a couple of detectives showed up at the Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater with the deceased man's phone. They were taken to Phillip's body and attempted to unlock his handset by putting his lifeless finger on the fingerprint sensor.

It just so happened that Phillip's fiancee was at the funeral home at the same time. Victoria Armstrong, 28, said that she felt "disrespected and violated" by the detective's actions. According to Lt. Randall Chaney of the Largo police, the cops wanted to preserve the data on the deceased's handset to help in the investigation of Phillip's death, and a separate narcotics investigation that involved Phillip. Lt. Chaney notes that the attempt to unlock the phone failed.

Most legal experts say that what the detectives did was legal, and that no warrant was needed since after death there is no expectation of privacy. However, law professor Charles Rose from Stetson University College of Law says that the deceased may not have expectations of privacy, but the surviving family does. "There’s a ghoulish component to it that’s troubling to most people," the professor said.

This recalls last year's battle between Apple and the Justice Department over the Apple iPhone 5c belonging to deceased San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The government mishandled the phone and the only way to unlock it was for Apple to create a new operating system which was dubbed Govt.OS. Even though ordered by a court to unlock the phone, Apple held fast and refused to create Govt.OS for fear that once it was developed, versions of it would be disseminated. And that would make personal data stored in any iPhone at risk to be stolen. The FBI was looking for names of any co-conspirators and the locations of other targets that Farook might have typed into his phone. Eventually the FBI paid a princely sum to open the handset, but found nothing of any investigative value.

Some 80 miles to the west of Largo in North Florida is Polk County. Last year, in the midst of Apple's refusal to comply with the court order to open Farook's phone, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that if he demanded that Apple open an iPhone and Apple CEO Tim Cook refused, he would throw Cook in jail.

Some might consider the use of one's fingerprints to search for evidence involving a police investigation about that person, to be a violation of the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. But a trial judge presiding over a landmark case in Virginia ruled that while asking someone for their passcode is a Fifth Amendment violation, obtaining fingerprints to open the same phone is not. The difference is that when a suspect is asked for his passcode, he is giving out information from his mind. Obtaining a fingerprint does not require the suspect to divulge any information.

source: TampaBayTimes



1. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3158; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

This is wrong on every level. It's not about national security, it's about getting a dead guy to snitch on a drug case.

6. lyndon420

Posts: 6840; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I've been saying this for awhile now. You can't beat a password/passcode when it comes to personal freedoms and privacy from those who claim to be superior to us mere common folk.

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7466; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Why is it that we also see articles that state there are a machines that police and other people are using to unlock any IPhone. If there division doesn't have a machine then they could take the phone to a division that does.

16. lyndon420

Posts: 6840; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

At least they'd be using a machine instead of violating my corpse.

18. audibot

Posts: 649; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

i see no issue with it, if a guy or girl shot your kid and wife/husband and he got killed a week later but they say no to fingerprint showing he had something if not everything to do with your families death, you would have no problem. or if it was donald trumps phone u have no problem

22. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

If you have done nothing wrong, this never happens. So no, its not wrong. Only in the heads of americans carrying guns........

27. lJesseCusterl

Posts: 96; Member since: Apr 27, 2015

I carry daily. I don't see a problem with it as long as it's legal. The weird thing is the people who complain about this and any kind of government overreach are also typically the same people who want to ban private ownership of guns.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2458; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I wonder the legal ramifications if the deceased gave the phone to another person in their will. Then, it would no longer be the property of the dead person but instead the property of someone that you would still need a warrant to search the phone. Also, what about cases in which the persons phone is on a family plan where the primary account holder is not the deceased? Does it not technically belong to the primary account holder in those cases? It seems to me that there might be some lawyer somewhere drawing up a case about this.

8. gamehead unregistered

Spooky. These cops just dont care

9. Vokilam

Posts: 1298; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

i could have told them that a lifeless finger wont work - this is widely known. dont cops have an i.t. guy at their hq?

14. jonathanfiuwx

Posts: 182; Member since: Mar 10, 2017


11. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Will face ID unlock on corpses?

12. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

If you can keep the eye lids of the dead open...maybe.

13. jonathanfiuwx

Posts: 182; Member since: Mar 10, 2017

Super glue

21. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

The IR sensors need to receive positive match of warm blood. You could hypothetically attach a blood pump to warm the blood, then pin the eyelids open and angle to eyeballs to look directly at phone...but thats a long shot.

25. rouyal

Posts: 1583; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Or use a heat gun

19. zennacko unregistered

So there you have it: if you want to keep your data safe even after you die, make sure they harvest your organs (if you're a donor) and toast the rest. There's no privacy, or fingerprints, on ashes.

20. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

And burn your desktop and smartphones.

26. xfire99

Posts: 1207; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

The articles didnt said what kind of phone it was and still author really loves to mentions about Apple alot of times.

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

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