A Virginia Circuit Court has just ruled that fingerprints are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. This decision has clear privacy implications for anyone with a newer iPhone or iPad using fingerprint security. This ruling comes after a case involving a man accused of crimes against his girlfriend. The prosecutors believed that the man may have stored videos on his phone that would implicate him in the crimes. Once the man was arrested, the police requested that the judge force the man to unlock his phone and provide access to the police.
According to Judge Steven C. Fucci, while a criminal defendant can’t be compelled to hand over a passcode to police officers for the purpose of unlocking a phone, law enforcement officials can compel a defendant to give up a fingerprint. The bizarre logic behind this ruling is that fingerprints are provided to the police once a person is arrested, so they are not as private as passcodes, therefore not protected.
What makes this case even more bizarre is that a person who has a passcode AND a fingerprint security feature on their phone, is still not required to hand over the passcode.
Recently, the US Supreme Court held that police officers needed a warrant to search a person’s cell phone.
While the Virginia case has no bearing on personal privacy protections in New York yet, it ultimately could if the case is appealed or if New York Courts use this case as an example.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we continue to stay updated on the most recent developments in the law in order to better serve our clients.