Courts to Police: You Can’t Force Suspects to Unlock their Phones

Stockton Criminal Law AttorneyTechnology has advanced at break-neck speed, and now even basic phones come equipped with fingerprint scanners, face recognition software, and more. These features have all proven themselves to be very convenient, although they’ve also paved the way for some legal gray areas.

This is especially true for police investigations/interrogations. Can the cops force you to unlock your phone via fingerprint, face recognition, a password, or any other means? In terms of passwords, the courts have already established that they are protected under the Fifth Amendment. But what about fingerprints or well, your face? The simple answer is that this is still loosely defined on the national level, although some states are moving to address this gap in the law.

California First State to Establish Search Warrant Requirement

A judge within the Northern District Court of California was the first to address this issue in a case where federal agents were looking to have a suspect unlock a device via fingerprint or face recognition. The judge determined that ultimately, the process is no different than when agents are seeking to have a suspect unlock a device via password.

Furthermore, the judge ruled that a biometric feature such as a fingerprint or facial features is considered a testimonial communication, which means that a person can’t be compelled to provide said biometric feature in order to unlock the device in question.

Consult with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney in CA

With new developments in technology come new questions that need to be asked, and law enforcement isn’t always up to date with what is or isn’t admissible in court or legally allowed. This is why it is essential for those who have been charged with a crime to recruit the aid of a qualified criminal defense attorney, someone who can comb through the fine details and help you pinpoint ways where law enforcement overstepped their boundaries.

We hope this post answered some questions about how emerging technologies can impact criminal and legal procedures in CA. Want to learn more? If so, know that you can always reach out to us at Jacot Law Firm to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney.

We’re happy to answer all your questions, so call us today at 209-463-1800 to schedule a free initial consultation.