writes with news of a Circuit Court decision from Virginia where a judge has ruled that a criminal defendant cannot use Fifth Amendment protections to safeguard a phone that is locked using his or her fingerprint
According to Judge Steven C. Fucci, while a criminal defendant can't be compelled to hand over a passcode to police officers for the purpose of unlocking a cellular device, law enforcement officials can compel a defendant to give up a fingerprint. The Fifth Amendment states that "no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," which protects memorized information like passwords and passcodes, but it does not extend to fingerprints in the eyes of the law, as speculated by Wired last year.
Frucci said that "giving police a fingerprint is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample or an actual key, which the law permits. A passcode, though, requires the defendant to divulge knowledge, which the law protects against, according to Frucci's written opinion."