Circuit court ruling states that police can require fingerprint, not pass code, for cell phone entry

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Date: Friday, October 31st, 2014, 13:24
Category: iPhone, Legal, News

This could open up a whole new can of worms.

According to, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, Circuit Court judge has ruled that a criminal defendant can be compelled to give up his fingerprint, but not his pass code, to allow police to open and search his cell phone.

The question of whether a phone’s pass code is constitutionally protected surfaced in the case of David Baust, an Emergency Medical Services captain charged in February with trying to strangle his girlfriend.

Prosecutors had said video equipment in Baust’s bedroom may have recorded the couple’s fight and, if so, the video could be on his cell phone. They wanted a judge to force Baust to unlock his phone, but Baust’s attorney, James Broccoletti, argued pass codes are protected by the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits forced self-incrimination.

Judge Steven C. Frucci ruled this week that giving police a fingerprint is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample or an actual key, which the law permits. A pass code, though, requires the defendant to divulge knowledge, which the law protects against, according to Frucci’s written opinion.


Broccoletti called Frucci’s ruling on target. The law is clear about fingerprints, he said, and the judge saw his point about pass codes.

Macie Pridgen, a spokeswoman for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors still are considering whether to appeal.

Neither said they knew whether Baust’s phone can be opened with just a fingerprint. Pridgen said prosecutors are having a detective look into it, and Broccoletti said Baust’s phone could be encrypted twice – with both a fingerprint and a pass code. If so, it would remain locked under Frucci’s ruling.

So, Touch ID and a passcode might be in order if you’re concerned about entry into your iPhone and where your legal rights stand in this regard.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what your take on this is over in the comments.

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2 Responses to “Circuit court ruling states that police can require fingerprint, not pass code, for cell phone entry”

  1. So in 5 seconds you can do a forced reset on your iPhone, putting it into a state that requires a passcode. Fingerprints will not open it after a restart.

  2. To all law enforcement: if you want to break into an iPhone, just hold down the power on key and press the round home button at the same time, until you see the white apple. Hope this helps.