Suspect Tells Judge He Forgot His Phone Passcode; It Works

Meanwhile, another man got 180 days in jail for giving cops incorrect passcode
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2017 1:33 PM CDT

(Newser) – If authorities in Florida demand the passcode for your iPhone, giving them the incorrect one will net you 180 days in jail. But claiming you forgot? That's apparently a get-out-of-jail-free card. Christopher Wheeler is suspected of abusing his daughter, and detectives believe his phone contains images of her injuries, the Miami Herald reports. Wheeler was sentenced to 180 days in jail Tuesday despite swearing he already gave police his passcode. The passcode he gave didn't work. Another Florida judge on Tuesday accepted Wesley Victor's excuse that he couldn't remember his phone's passcode 10 months after his arrest, ruling there was no way to prove whether he did or didn't remember it. Victor is accused of using stolen sex videos to extort a Snapchat celebrity.

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Courts in Florida—and around the country—are struggling with the issue of law enforcement's access to protected devices. Last year, a trial judge in Florida ruled that being forced to give up a phone's passcode violates a suspect's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Reason reports. A state appeals court rejected that argument, stating a phone's passcode and its contents are different things. "This is definitely a question that is percolating in the lower courts and will eventually make its way up to the Supreme Court," an attorney specializing in technology tells CNN. Until that time, there will be no "clear answers" on the issue. (To unlock a dead man's phone, police turn to 3D printing.)

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