As police now routinely seek access to people’s cellphones, privacy advocates see a dangerous erosion of Americans’ rights, and courts scramble to keep up.
Reporting by @jonschuppe.
When William Montanez was stopped by police in Tampa last year, he did not deny that there was marijuana in his car.
Police arrested him on drug charges, as well as for having a firearm in the car, and demanded the passcodes to his two confiscated phones. He refused. (2/6)
Days after Montanez was bailed out of jail, he was tracked down and served with a warrant for his passcodes. He still refused, and was locked up again for contempt of court.
He then spent 44 days behind bars before charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a pot charge (3/6)
While courts have determined that police need a warrant to search a cellphone, the question of whether police can force someone to share a passcode is far from settled, with no laws on the books and a confusing patchwork of differing judicial decisions. (4/6)
Police have also tried to force people to open phones through biometrics, such as thumbprints or facial recognition.
The law has generally been interpreted as protecting mental data like passcodes, but not necessarily a person’s physical traits, such as thumbprints. (5/6)
“The world should know that what they’re doing out here is crazy.”
The police never got into Montanez's phones. He says he regrets nothing, because he now sees his defiance as taking a stand against the abuse of his rights.
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