LA Judge Compels Suspect to Unlock iPhone with Fingerprint

Touch ID on iPhone

The FBI has obtained a warrant from a Los Angeles court ordering a woman to unlock her Touch ID-protected iPhone. The woman, Paystar Bkhchadzhyan, had pleaded no contest to a felony charge of identity theft on February 25. Less than an hour after she was taken from the courtroom, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg signed a warrant that compelled the woman to unlock her iPhone via Touch ID.

With the woman accepting the charges against her, it is likely the FBI obtained the warrant to unlock her iPhone to nab her Armenian boyfriend who is part of a gang.

This is not the first time that a court has issued a warrant to unlock a device that is protected by the fingerprint of its owner. As fingerprint scanners become more common in smartphones, courts are being bound to issue warrants to force convicts or suspects to unlock their devices. However, many experts think that courts don’t have the authority to do this, as the order goes against the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The amendment states and protects a person from being compelled to being a witness against himself in a criminal case. This means that a person cannot be compelled by the court to reveal the passcode of their smartphone or any other device. The Touch ID sensor on any iOS device will stop working if the device has not been used for 48 hours or if it was restarted. In such cases, the phone first needs to be unlocked using the passcode.

[Via Los Angeles Times]