Judge: Cops Can't Force Defendant to Tell Password

An accused child pornographer has the right to keep his laptop password, and images, private
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Dec 15, 2007 9:51 AM CST
A federal judge has ruled a defendant in a criminal case can't be forced to divulge the password to his laptop. The decision could lead to a landmark decision on privacy and Fifth Amendment rights against...   (Magnum Photos)
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(Newser) – In what could turn out to be a landmark decision on computer privacy and Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination, a federal judge in Vermont has ruled that a man accused of transporting child pornography across the US border with Canada can’t be forced to turn over his laptop password to prosecutors, reports CNET.

Agents discovered the porn when they opened the suspect's computer at the border. He was arrested and the computer shut down. They’ve since been unable to access the drive. Prosecutors contend defendants generally can be forced to unlock safes containing evidence and want password treated similarly. Privacy advocates say the Fifth Amendment protects a defendant’s thoughts and, thus, applies to passwords.