A Florida judge ruled Tuesday that a man named Christopher Wheeler must serve six months in jail unless he provides the correct password to police to unlock his iPhone to comply with a warranted search. Wheeler, who has been charged with child abuse, swore in court the incorrect password he already gave the cops is the only one he remembers.
Meanwhile, in another Florida case, a different judge on the same day declined to jail a man who likewise said he could not remember his password nearly a year after his arrest. Circuit Judge Charles Johnson ruled it is impossible to prove the defendant is lying about his memory.
The cases are a noteworthy development in the debate over phone security and privacy when law enforcement interests are at stake. At issue is whether compelling a defendant to unlock their phone is analogous to compelling them to permit a warranted search of their home, or if it runs afoul of constitutional protections pertaining to privacy, free speech, and self-incrimination. If you have the right to remain silent, does that extend to your iPhone password?