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Can police get phone passcodes to search smart phones?

Aug 18, 2020 | Criminal Defense, Firm News

Locked mobile phone with passcode screen

Smart phones can contain contact information for acquaintances, business associates, friends and family in these devices. These devices may record the locations we stop at throughout the day and often save months and even years’ worth of text message conversations. It could have the capability to automatically log on to email, social media and other sites that we otherwise have protected. So what happens when police request to look at these devices?

Can they get the passcodes, too?

What would a judge say?

A recent case questioned this issue. The court looked into whether or not the police who had a warrant for the cellphone could also require the phone owner to provide the passcodes.

In this case, the owner of the phone argued that such information would result in a violation of his constitutional right not to testify against himself. Ultimately, the state supreme court agreed with the police. The court stated that the warrant provided police the ability to review a “cellphones’ purportedly incriminating contents.”

What does this mean for the rest of the country?

The case was out of New Jersey and is currently only applicable within that state. However, it could signal an impending shift change throughout the country. Other courts throughout the country could rule in a similar manner.

It is also possible that a case with a similar issue could rise to the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Holding that occur here apply in every state. We will provide updates in the event SCOTUS agrees to rule on this issue.