California residents often grapple with the idea of allowing a police search. That struggle becomes even more profound when it involves a cell phone or other electronic device. According to NBC News, police are placing increasing pressure on private citizens to give up their passwords or risk going to jail.
The trend was highlighted when a Florida man recently spent more than 44 days in jail after refusing to provide the password to his cell phone. Despite being served with a search warrant, the man stood his ground claiming that his right to privacy was at stake. He was then charged with contempt and placed behind bars.
After some legal wrangling, the contempt order was eventually dropped. The man then pleaded guilty to a lesser charge related to his traffic stop. He said most people are unaware of this potential breach of privacy and that his stand was well worth it.
This case does raise some serious legal issues. For example, courts have established that officers can obtain a search warrant for a cell phone, but have not yet ruled as to whether or not they can force someone to share their password.
Those who have been told by police to either give up their password or go to jail may have a hard time deciding what to do. On one hand, individuals may not be opposed to sharing certain information. Other the other, they could have concerns over revealing private or personal information that would have no bearing on their case.
Anyone faced with this dilemma may seek advice from a criminal defense attorney on how to proceed. A criminal lawyer might also make people aware of any long-term consequences that might arise from their refusal to share a password.