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cell phone search

How Does the iPhone’s New ‘Cop Button’ Work?

Cell phones have been the new frontier in search and seizure law, and for a while they've been giving fits to law enforcement and the courts. Can customs search your cloud data at the border? Can the feds force tech companies to provide access to phone data? Can a warrant give police access to everyone's phone at a given location? Can police 3-D print a finger to unlock a phone? Wait, what? It may seem weird, but courts actually treat passcodes and fingerprints differently when it comes to unlocking phones, and more and more people are becoming aware that their phones are actually less secure (from law enforcement anyway) with fingerprint access. So, naturally, Apple came up with a fix for that -- the "cop button." Physical Evidence and Metaphysical Contents More accurately, as the Verge describes, it's like a cop sequence of taps. Apple's upcoming iOS11 for the iPhone will let users tap the power button five times for emergencies. This then allows someone to dial 911 while also disabling the phone's Touch ID feature until they enter a passcode. Essentially, Apple is giving iPhone users "a far more discreet way of locking out a phone." Those who haven't been following recent search and seizure case law may be asking themselves why locking out a phone would be useful, or having a passcode accessible phone would be any more secure from police searches than a fingerprint accessible phone. As we mentioned above, courts, and thus law enforcement, treat them very differently. Combinations and codes, to an individual, have generally been considered the "contents of his own mind," and therefore beyond the government's power to compel production. Whereas keys and fingerprints are physical evidence, which "may be extracted from a defendant against his will." FaceTime? There's another reason this distinction may matter, and why the "cop button" may be necessary in the near feature. Apparently, iOS 11 will also introduce face unlocking on the next iPhone. Giving law enforcement another piece of physical evidence that grants them access phone, and giving users another reason to have a way to disable that access. Different jurisdictions have been treating cell phones -- and the ways in which law enforcement may force people to unlock them -- in different ways. To find out the law where you live, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint? (FindLaw Blotter) Florida Judge: Give Up Your Smartphone Passcode or Go to Jail (FindLaw Blotter) Are Warrantless Cell Phone Searches Legal? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Your Significant Privacy Interest in Your Phone Doesn’t End at Border

Your phone now contains more information than ever before, more even than your home, and the courts recognize this. You do have a significant privacy interest in your phone and you can challenge a search of your tech just as you would a search of your car. Two years ago, the Supreme Court acknowledged the significant role of technology in our lives in Riley v. California. A recent case out of the Eastern District of Virginia, US v. Kolsuz, illustrates this, saying specifically that search of a smartphone at a border requires reasonable suspicion, according to legal analyst Orin Kerr. Let's consider what it means for you. Attached to our Phones Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous court in Riley v. California, was cognizant of the role that cell phones play in contemporary life, and our significant attachment to our tech. The phone are, he said, "such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy." In the more recent case, US v Kolsuz, the court rejected prosecutors' attempts to distinguish between two kinds of searches -- an extensive cell phone search from a very extensive one. The court found that either type of forensic search of cell phone data invades privacy and requires a warrant. It noted that the government can reconstruct an individual's private life by putting together the data in the phone and wrote, "Thus although the forensic search of defendant's iPhone did not involve the copying of every bit of data contained on the phone's hard drive, it nonetheless implicated significant privacy interests. To suggest otherwise is like suggesting that a strip search does not implicate a significant privacy interest so long as the government does not look between the person's toes." Search and Seizure The courts are increasingly finding we have a significant privacy interest in our technology, and recent rulings indicate that police must treat personal items like smartphones as they would your home or person. But remember that these cases arise when someone is challenging what already happened. This means that in reality when you are at the border, authorities may ask to search your phone and it is up to you to say no. Even if your phone is taken, you significantly improve your chances of successfully challenging the search by clearly refusing to consent to it. Accused? If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Speak to a criminal defense attorney today. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Probable Cause (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Police Misconduct and Civil Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) The Fourth Amendment Warrant Requirement (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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