In a divided opinion (2-1), the Indiana Court of Appeals recently held in Katelin Eunjoo Seo v. State of Indiana, 29A05-1710-CR-2466 that the State cannot compel a person to unlock their smarphone. “The defendant was charged with invasion of privacy, stalking, intimidation and other charges stemming from the alleged harassment of another person. As part of the criminal investigation, law enforcement obtained a warrant compelling the defendant to unlock her iPhone - either by unlocking the phone and removing the passcode feature or by changing the passcode to 1234. When the defendant refused, the trial court held her in contempt and ordered the defendant to unlock the phone.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the contempt finding and order to unlock the smartphone. In doing so, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the act of unlocking, and therefore decrypting the contents of the smartphone, would be akin to compelling testimony against oneself in violation of a defendant's 5th Amendment right not to incriminate oneself.
Because this is a case of first impression in the State of Indiana, it most certainly will be reviewed by the Indiana Supreme Court. Stay tuned to see if the highest court in Indiana agrees with this decision.
This blog is written and managed by the Law Offices of Brian M. Pierce. Any information provided in this blog should not be construed as legal advice. If you have legal questions or concerns please consult with an attorney.