Bloomberg Law Analysis

ANALYSIS: Thumb-Scan Phone Locks Are Still a 5th Amend. Puzzle

Dec. 13, 2019, 11:40 AM

More often than ever, people use biometric information—facial recognition, a fingerprint, or an iris or retinal scan—to unlock their smartphone. When a phone may contain evidence of a crime, can law enforcement force a person to use their body to unlock the phone?

The question is a thorny one, but some consensus appears to be emerging around the issues these new technologies present under the Fifth Amendment. While courts are still divided over whether to issue warrants compelling suspects to unlock devices with a fingerprint, some fact patterns seem to tip the scales.

Most courts hold that law enforcement can...

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