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Judge Rules Phone Lock Screen Requires Search Warrant

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May 26, 2020, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

A federal judge in Seattle has ruled that the FBI violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights when it collected evidence by powering on the defendant's smartphone and photographing a notification displayed on the lock screen. The judge ruled that the FBI's actions amounted to a search, even though they made no attempt to unlock the phone. Because the FBI did not obtain a search warrant, it was unconstitutional. However, in the same case, the same judge stated that police officers collecting the same information at the time of arrest did not necessarily violate the defendant's constitutional rights. That's because arresting officers checking the lock screen "took place either incident to a lawful arrest or as part of the police's efforts to inventory the personal effects". Under those circumstances, search warrants are not necessarily required.

Ars Technica »



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