FL Appeals Court: Defendants Can Be Forced To Give Up iPhone Password

In a shocking defeat for privacy advocates, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals has ruled that Criminal Defendants may be forced to give up their iPhone password to law enforcement. Tossing aside concerns about the right to remain silent, the Court in State v. Stahl, ruled that the Fifth Amendment did not apply in this situation.

Mr. Stahl was charged with video voyeurism, a third degree felony. He is accused of crouching down with a cell phone in his hand and extending the phone under a woman’s skirt with the screen illuminated. Mr. Stahl was arrested but there was no phone in his possession. Mr. Stahl gave police permission to search his house and they found an iPhone 5. After Mr. Stahl withdrew his consent to search any further, police obtained a search warrant to search the iPhone. However, there was only one problem for police. The phone had a passcode and they did not have the technology or personnel to crack the code themselves.

The State Attorney filed a motion to compel from the Defense the passcode. The defense argued the Fifth Amendment protection against self incrimination applied, and that they did not have to disclose the passcode. The appeals court ruled with the State. The Court shook off an often repeated quote from Justice Stevens in Doe v. U.S. (an accused may be “forced to surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents,” but he cannot “be compelled to reveal the combination to his wall safe’), questioning this distinction as “technology advances.” Ignoring the obvious privacy implications, the court held that Mr. Stahl would not be acknowledging that the phone contains evidence of video voyeurism by providing the passcode. The local Public Defender’s office did not appeal the decision and it is now final.

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