Smartphones as legal evidence

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2020 | Criminal Law

Smartphones are becoming more integral parts of daily life. As these devices have become more essential, the amount of data stored upon them has increased. This makes them potentially valuable as sources of evidence in criminal cases and other legal matters. 

As this technology matures, so does the legal discussion surrounding it. Various issues, such as manufacturers’ responsibilities to the consumers and the constitutional rights associated with the locking and unlocking of the devices, have come to the highest levels of both public and legal forums. 

One notable case involved Fifth-Amendment rights. A Carmel, Indiana, woman took her dispute to the Indiana Supreme Court as to whether police could compel her to unlock her phone. As explained in the majority opinion for the case, the court decided that compelling the woman to unlock her phone is prohibited by the United States Constitution. 

There is also the issue of devices being impenetrable to law enforcement professionals in the first place. As covered by the New York Times, police in Indiana had been able to unlock certain devices that were supposed to be encrypted. The article reports that the company in question took steps to block these vulnerabilities. This would indicate an attitude on behalf of technology companies that the devices they manufacture are supposed to be secure against any and all types of unwanted intrusions. 

The Times article also references several other occurrences of law enforcement clashing with technology companies over privacy issues which extend back through smartphones’ history. Therefore, it is probably safe to say that, as long as they continue to be part of people’s daily lives, there will continue to be legal issues surrounding these devices.