Police can now force you to unlock fingerprint-protected devices
The Fifth Amendment states that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” which protects memorized information such as passwords and codes, but according to Mashable, a Circuit Court judge in Virginia has ruled that those protections don’t extend to fingerprints, which can be used to unlock your electronics.
Both Apple and Google have taken steps recently to help users protect the information that they store on their mobile devices, even from law enforcement. The problem with that, however, is that fingerprints are more akin to DNA or handwriting samples, whereas passwords and codes require the defendant to divulge knowledge, something which the law protects against.
That’s the gist of a recent ruling by Judge Steven C. Frucci in the case of David Baust, an emergency-medical-services captain that has been accused of domestic abuse, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Baust was ordered by police to unlock his phone so that they could search for video evidence against him, as they had acquired a warrant to search his phone. However, Baust refused, citing the Fifth Amendment.
While this ruling doesn’t change the fact that Baust has no obligation to provide the police with the passcode to his phone, he’s now being required to unlock the device using the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor. Baust’s lawyer, however, believes that the device will still require a passcode to unlock since it has been shut off, an extra security measure that was implemented by Apple.