Court Decision: Biometric Phone Unlocking and Fifth Amendment

A federal appeals court ruled that the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination doesn’t prevent police from compelling a suspect to unlock a phone with a thumbprint scan. The case involved Jeremy Travis Payne, a California parolee arrested on drug charges. The court determined that using biometrics to unlock a device isn’t testimonial, akin to providing a physical key, and doesn’t intrude on the contents of one’s mind.

The decision follows precedents set by the Supreme Court regarding compelled acts and their cognitive involvement. However, the ruling doesn’t extend to all biometric unlocking cases, and future instances may raise different Fifth Amendment considerations, particularly regarding the foregone conclusion doctrine. Additionally, the court rejected Payne’s Fourth Amendment argument related to parole search conditions.