A Massachusets court recently held that a defendant cannot be compelled to provide a cell phone PIN number to a cell phone that is seized in an arrest, because doing so would be self-incriminating. In Commonwealth v. Jones, the Superior Court reasoned in part that
The fact that the LG Phone was found on Mr. Jones’ person at the time of his arrest is notable and helpful to the Commonwealth, but insufficient. In many (perhaps nowadays most) cases, a cellular telephone is found on an individual at the time of his/her arrest. The mere fact of possession does not mean that the police know that the phone belongs to the individual arrested, or that the individual knows the decryption code to unlock any locked features on the phone. In seeking to compel Mr. Jones to provide the PIN for the LG Phone, the Commonwealth is asking Mr. Jones to admit that he owns and/or controls the LG Phone, a fact the Commonwealth believes to be true, but does not know, and has been unable to establish independently. I cannot compel defendant to disclose or produce the PIN.
More tools for the defense lawyer’s toolkit. We’ll let you know if there’s an appeal.