Crime

Man Jailed After Failing To Reveal iPhone Passcode

| by Sheena Vasani

A man in Florida was sentenced to 180 days in jail after he refused to hand over his iPhone password to the police.

Authorities were probing Christopher Wheeler, 41, for child abuse and believed he may have kept images of his daughter's injuries on the phone, reports the Miami Herald.

As a result, they requested the passcode, something Wheeler -- who was arrested in March after he allegedly hit and scratched his daughter -- says he did give but did not work.

"I swear, under oath, I’ve given them the password," said a handcuffed Wheeler.

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Wheeler's case is proving controversial, however. Many argue asking for his iPhone passcode violates his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"No person shall ... be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," the Fifth Amendment reads, CNN reports.

"Good for him!" writes one Daily Mail reader in response to the case. "Don't give the police your password! Let them do the work to hack into it. If they can't, you are free to go."

"SUE THE JUDGE violation of his 1st 4th Amd," added another on a Facebook post about the case. "[And] have him disbarred!!! Exactly WHAT *CRIME* did he COMMIT???"

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Adding fire to the debate, another individual in Florida also captured national attention when authorities mandated he hand over his iPhone passcode.

A judge ordered Wesley Victor and his girlfriend to allow access to their phones.  Police suspected the phones contained text messages proving they were trying to threaten a social media celebrity with stolen sex tapes in exchange for $18,000.

However, Victor claimed he did not remember his password, adding even more complexity to the already controversial case.

"It's one of the serious flaws with these compelled password entry cases: if someone legitimately can't remember, then they're being held in contempt for failing to comply with an impossible order," Mark Rumold, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, reports Ars Technica.

In contrast to Wheeler's case, the judge took Victor's side, arguing there was no way to prove Victor was lying about forgetting his password.

"I think it's a new frontier," said Kertch Conze, the attorney for Victor's girlfriend. "I do believe that it's eroding the rights that are guaranteed by the US Constitution."

"The judge made the right call," added Victor's lawyer, Zeljka Bozanic. "My client testified he did not remember. It’s been almost a year. Many people, including myself, can’t remember passwords from a year ago."

Sources: Miami Herald, Daily Mail, Facebook, CNN, Ars Technica / Photo credit: Pixabay

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