During an arrest, what happens to a person’s cell phone? In Louisiana, while an officer can confiscate a phone, there is a chance that he or she will not be able to access it. It is routine for the cops to ask for the passcode to a person’s phone. While many people know that it is in their best interests not to answer police questions during an arrest, they do not always know the laws regarding cell phones. The truth is that the laws on the books are minimal, at best.
The courts have not yet caught up with privacy laws regarding cell phones. According to NBC, police do need a warrant to search a phone. The question remains: does this mean that police can force a person to give up the passcode? Some argue that it is a violation of a person’s Fifth Amendment right. If the phone contains possible incriminating evidence, is this a violation of a person’s rights? Some state attorney generals believe that to force a person to give up the password alters the power balance between investigators and the accused.
Now, the argument is grayer when regarding facial recognition. The Fifth Amendment applies to self-incrimination, rather than physical traits. A person can protect data in his or her mind, but not his or her thumbprint or face.
California, so far, is one state that rules that authorities cannot force a person to unlock a phone. This case may set a precedent for other states and could have a hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States.