Florida courts disagree on Fifth Amendment protection for smartphone passwords

florida court phone passwords android lock screen password
Generally speaking, locking your smartphone with a PIN or passphrase is a good idea. It hides your social media, budgeting, and finance app data from prying friends and family, and it is a simple safeguard against theft.

But in some United States courts, passwords can be a liability.

The Miami Herald reports that Christopher Wheeler, a child abuse suspect, has been held in criminal contempt and sentenced to 180 days in jail for refusing to reveal his iPhone’s passcode. That is despite the man’s claims that the password he provided, which did not work, was correct.

“I swear, under oath, I’ve given them the password,” Wheeler told a Florida circuit court judge on Thursday.

Wheeler, who was arrested on accusations he hit and scratched his young daughter, was charged with child abuse in March. Detectives believe that his phone contains pictures of the child’s injury, which could help prove the case.

A judge authorized a search warrant for Wheeler’s iPhone, but police were unable to get in. Wheeler will be allowed to post bond pending an appeal, or set free if he provides a working passcode.

In a separate Florida case, a judge declined to hold in contempt a man accused of extortion for refusing to unlock his iPhone.

The man, Wesley Victor, had been ordered by a judge to hand over the passcode of phones suspected of containing incriminating text messages. He and his girlfriend, reality TV star Hencha Voigt, are accused of threatening to release sex videos stolen from social media icon YesJulz in exchange for $18,000.

Victor claimed he could not recall the password, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Charles Johnson ruled that there was no way to prove that he remembered his PIN code more than 10 months after his initial arrest.

According to the Fifth Amendment, defendants have the right not to say anything that could be used against them. But recent court decisions have muddied the waters.

Both Wheeler and Victor were ordered to give up their passwords under a Florida precedent that let police force a voyeur to give up his passcode. The state Court of Appeals ruled that defendants can sometimes be compelled to give up passcodes based on the “foregone conclusion” doctrine of the Fifth Amendment, which states that if police can compel a defendant can testify if they’re reasonably certain of what they’re going to find.

The Florida Supreme Court has yet to take up the issue.

Some legal experts argue that smartphones should be exempt from the doctrine, arguing that passcode demands lead to “fishing expeditions” — phone searches without clear objectives. Short of final world from the Supreme Court, though, little seems poised to change.

“[It’s] the law in Florida at this point,” Johnson said, citing the Court of Appeals judgement in the case of Voigt.

Home Theater

You can now watch four PlayStation Vue streams at once on a single Apple TV

PlayStation Vue subscribers can now watch March Madness in style via Apple TV, which can now stream up for four separate games to your TV at once, making it easy to catch all the on-court action.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Mobile

The Moto G7 Power, with its massive battery, is now available for purchase

After a number of leaks and rumors, the Motorola Moto G7, Moto G7 Play, and Moto G7 Power are finally here. The devices represent quite a spec bump over the previous-generation Moto G6 phones, yet still come at a reasonable price.
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

We're glad to see that USB-C is quickly becoming the norm. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone. We've got USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A.
Computing

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.
Wearables

The Tacs Nato-Lens is a watch for those who live life through a camera lens

Not all watches have to be round, or connect to your phone. The Tacs Nato-Lens is a stylish piece of wristwear with a design inspired by classic SLR cameras, making it a geeky timepiece for the camera and watch fan.
Mobile

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.
Mobile

HMD Global admits Nokia 7 Plus handsets sent user data to China

Nokia could be in some hot water. According to recent reports, Nokia 7 models may be secretly sending data to China without the user knowing about it. Nokia says that the issue was a software bug and that it has been fixed.
Mobile

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Mobile

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.
Mobile

Wring the most out of iOS with the best Siri commands

You may not know all the things you can say to Siri -- after all, Apple never released an official list of commands for its virtual assistant. Thankfully, we've compiled a list of the best Siri commands to help you out.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here's our review of Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet.