Can the police make you unlock your phone?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Your phone likely unlocks with either a fingerprint or a facial recognition scanner. It may use a numbered code as a backup lock, or that may be your primary feature if you have an older phone or deliberately set it up that way. 

So what if the police arrest you and they believe that you have stored information that would lead to a conviction on your phone? Maybe they’re looking for pictures, text messages, contacts or something along those lines. Can they force you to open your phone if you don’t want to because you think it could incriminate you? 

A hot issue in recent years

This issue has been touched on many times in recent years. Courts have often ruled that you do not have to tell the police your password, though they sometimes work with outside contractors to break the encryption anyway. 

If your phone uses your own biometric information — a face scan or a fingerprint — then courts have ruled you cannot usually be forced to submit to such a scan. That doesn’t mean that the police will not ask you to do so. It could be a violation of your rights if they force you to sign in against your will — by holding the phone in front of your face or pressing your finger against the scanner, for instance. 

Technology has changed massively in the last two decades. It often outpaces the law, so you get complex issues like this that courts have to address. If you find yourself in such a situation, you must know your legal rights

FindLaw Network