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Former Chief Prosecutor Of Loudoun County

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The law catching up to a new digital age

| Jan 22, 2019 | Criminal Defense

Over the past few years, digital privacy and security have been an issue that has been a hot topic, resurfacing in the media time and again. With that in mind, the citizens of Virginia might be interested to know that a Californian judge just issued a historic ruling that has the potential to be a landmark decision: The judge ruled that the government does not have the right to force individuals to unlock their phones using their biometrics, including the individual’s face, fingerprint, or iris.

It all started when the cops in California were investigating a case of extortion, where the victim was being forced to pay a certain sum of money in return for preventing compromising footage of them being released. This crime was taking place on Facebook, prompting the cops to ask the judge for a warrant to search the suspects’ property as well as their phones.

Even though the judge agreed with the government officials and saw that they had probable cause to search the property, she also saw that the government didn’t have the right to force people to incriminate themselves by opening their phones, which went against a lot of previous rulings that allowed cops and federal agents to use a suspect’s biological features to unlock their personal devices. The judge went on to clarify that seeing as a suspect does not have to give away their passcode thanks to the Fifth Amendment, the same protection should be extended to an individual’s body parts.

It is obvious that this remains a very contentious area filled with plenty of opposing views. Nevertheless, everybody has rights, and it is imperative that the government respect those rights, among which are the right to privacy and the right to not incriminate oneself. Ergo, anyone who finds themselves in a position where their rights might be violated may benefit from reaching out to a knowledgeable lawyer who can help them explore all their legal options.