Defendants can be forced to turn over phone passcodes, N.J.’s highest court rules
Appellate Docket No.: A-72-18
Decided August 10, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, the Court reviewed whether the requirement of a defendant to turnover his passcode to his iphone constituted a violation of the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In State v. Andrews, a former Essex County Sheriff’s Officer was charged with official misconduct, tampering, and obstruction. The defendant officer provided information to another individual to help the individual avoid detection from an ongoing investigation. This included giving the whereabouts of state license plates that were following the individual, the identity of the investigator believed to be in charge, and destroying evidence such as cell phones.
The individual informed investigators the defendant was assisting him in alluding law enforcement. Evidence of the individual’s and defendant’s conversations were contained on defendant’s ipone, but was passcode protected. The State retrieved a warrant to search Defendant’s phone, but defendant refused to deliver the passcode, arguing this violated his 5th amendment right against incrimination.
The issue eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. The Court ruled that the defendant’s passcode was not protected by the 5th Amendment’s right against self incrimination, because the statements on the phone and the passcode was statements that were already made, not one that has yet to be made – an important distinction. Further, the Court ruled that the foregone conclusion exception to the 5th Amendment applies in this circumstance, as the State could demonstrate it already knew the information that the act of giving over the passcode was going to reveal.
If you have been charged with any first degree crime, second degree crime, third degree crime, fourth degree crime, disorderly persons offense, municipal ordinance violation, or traffic ticket / DUI/DWI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Failing to hire a defense attorney and putting your faith in a public defender could give you the same result as the defendant in this case!
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court and municipal court for criminal matters like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to ensure prosecutors, police, and even judges follow the law.
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