Do You Have to Unlock Your Phone for the Police?

Joliet attorney cell phone searchJust as technology makes advances on what seems like a daily basis, the laws governing the use of and access to technological devices is still evolving. A case currently making its way through Illinois courts addresses just this issue, and, as it stands, law enforcement now can require an owner to unlock their cell phone in the process of executing a search warrant. This district court decision overturned a lower court’s decision on the matter, making the contents of one’s phone subject to search as part of a criminal investigation.

Are Your Face or Fingerprints Protected by the Constitution?

In the interests of convenience and security, cell phone manufacturers have begun adding features that allow a user to access their cell phone through a facial recognition program, or by using fingerprint identification technology. Access via these and other security code programs continue to be the subject of legal battles between law enforcement, the public, and product manufacturers. An Illinois district court ruled that access by means of fingerprint was covered under the parameters of a search warrant, based on the circumstances of the case, which included:

  • The search warrant issued included a home and electronic devices on the premises.
  • Police believed they had reasonable suspicion that evidence of the crime for which the warrant was issued would be found on electronic devices.
  • The need for fingerprint access was time-sensitive, since Touch ID access does not work if a device is turned off and restarted, or unused for a certain period of time, at which time a numeric passcode is required to access the device.

The ruling established a precedent for forcing owners to unlock devices under a narrow set of circumstances that included the presence of a search warrant and a limited time frame under which to access information contained on devices.

Ultimately, how this issue plays out in court will depend on how judges apply historic constitutional law to the advancements of technology. The Illinois ruling, while limited, could result in wider, more invasive searches, which advocates have vowed to monitor closely.

Rely on a Knowledgeable Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether law enforcement has charged you with a crime or you have questions about your treatment during a police investigation, it is important to secure the help of someone who understands the law. Protect your rights by retaining the services of an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney who has the resources to provide a thorough review of your case. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. will build a strong and aggressive defense relying on the facts of the case and applicable legal precedent. Contact our offices today at 815-740-4025 to schedule an initial consultation.

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