Typically, if you’re under investigation for a serious felony, the police cannot open your phone without a warrant. They can ask you for your password, but you’re under no obligation to give it to them. Doing so could cause you to incriminate yourself, so you’re legally protected under the Fifth Amendment. You do not have to provide evidence against yourself, even when asked.
However, many people no longer use passwords exclusively in order to open their phones. Some use their fingerprints, and modern phones tend to use facial recognition systems. These are known as biometrics. There is a reason that someone can simply look at their phone to open it, but it wouldn’t open for anyone else– such as a police officer – without the password.
But this raises the question of whether the police can use your face or fingerprint against you. Are your biometrics protected under the Fifth Amendment?
Police officers have been using biometrics
The truth is that police officers have been using peoples biometrics to open phones during criminal investigations, and the courts have not ruled that this is a violation under the Fifth Amendment.
The overall reasoning behind this is simply that the person isn’t being compelled to incriminate themselves by providing information, such as a password. Their biometrics are not a testimony or something that they provide. Biometrics are just who they are. This is highly controversial, of course, but it is a tactic police have used.
Therefore, you can see why it is so important for you to know all about your criminal defense options and your legal rights when facing such charges.