An appellate court determined that an Illinois man charged with illegal drug possession was not required to unlock his cell phone for police investigators, according to a recent decision from Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District.
In terms of specific background information, this legal battle dates back to June 2017. At that time, the Illinois man was riding as a passenger in a vehicle in Rock Island. A law enforcement officer pulled over the vehicle and executed a traffic stop.
During the traffic stop, additional officers arrived with a K9 unit. When the K9 unit indicated the presence of contraband, the law enforcement officers conducted a complete search of the vehicle. As a result of that search, the officers located a prescription pill bottle filled with cocaine powder, a measuring scale with cocaine residue, and approximately 20 individually sized plastic bags.
After locating the illegal drugs and related contraband, the officers then searched the Illinois man’s person. Law enforcement requested that the man unlock his cell phone. But the man refused to do so. Consequently, the law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant to examine the contents of the man’s phone.
In support of their search warrant, law enforcement argued that drug traffickers often use cell phones to perpetrate their crimes. Law enforcement received a search warrant for the Illinois man’s phone, including but not limited to call logs, text messages, GPS data, instant messages, and similar data.
When the Illinois man still refused to unlock his phone, despite the search warrant, law enforcement filed a legal motion to force the man to do so. However, the Illinois courts stepped in to review the validity of the search warrant in question.
An Illinois trial court reviewed the facts of the case and the circumstances surrounding the search warrant. Ultimately, the trial court decided not to force the Illinois man to unlock his cell phone. The trial court determined that doing so would violate the man’s right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.
In light of the trial court’s decision, law enforcement filed an appeal. The Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District, decided to review the case and, eventually, affirmed the trial court’s decision. This appellate court also determined that forcing the man to unlock his phone would violate the Fifth Amendment. Additionally, the Third District court called law enforcement’s efforts a “fishing expedition,” as they did not know what damaging evidence existed on the phone, if any.
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(image courtesy of Jordan Andrews)