The state Supreme Court rules that you can refuse to disclose your smartphone passcode to the police, with some pointing out that the judicial view on passcodes is completely confused and will be carried over to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a court case that asked whether it is possible to refuse to provide a passcode to the police, the Utah Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it is possible to refuse to provide a passcode to the police.

Suspects can refuse to provide phone passcodes to police, court rules | Ars Technica

The ruling was made during a hearing involving Alfonso Valdez, who was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Officers assigned to the case obtained a search warrant to see the contents of Valdez's phone, but were unable to decipher the passcode and asked Valdez to unlock it. However, since Valdez refused, prosecutors argued that the very act of refusing to release the lock undermined the credibility of Valdez's defense. In the end, the jury convicted Valdez.

In response, the appeals court said, ``Valdez has the right under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to refuse to provide the passcode. The court agreed with Valdez's claim that he had violated the law, and the conviction was overturned. The Utah Supreme Court subsequently upheld the Court of Appeals' decision.

The Fifth Amendment is a law of inquisition, meaning that no suspect in any criminal case may be forced to testify against him or her and be denied life, liberty, or freedom without due process of law. It is stipulated that no property shall be taken away.

This time, the police seized the smartphone based on a warrant, but in accordance with customary practice, they asked for verbal testimony regarding the act of obtaining the smartphone's passcode. However, as mentioned above, it is stipulated that suspects do not have to testify against themselves, so the police and prosecutors who pursued the suspect's failure to testify may be wrong. This is Valdez's argument.

The case was confusing because there was a difference between giving a passcode to the police and physically providing the police with an unlocked cell phone. The Supreme Court justice stated, ``While these two acts may be functionally equivalent, the current doctrine of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution does not clearly provide that they are equivalent.'' This time, I explained that the court had issued an official judgment regarding the act of ``obtaining the passcode'' carried out by the police.

'Lower court case law in similar cases is completely confused, and other state supreme courts have ruled differently. This case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court,' said Orin Carr, a law professor at the University of Berkeley. 'Possibly. The issue will be how the Fifth Amendment privilege applies to unlocking smartphones.'

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