FBI can't look at your phone lock screen without a warrant


The FBI broke the law when it switched on a suspect’s phone to look at his lock screen without a warrant, ruled a judge.

It said that gathering evidence from a lock screen constitutes a search, and doing this without a warrant violates the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure …

The ruling was made by judge John Coughenour in a district court in Seattle.

What is known is that on February 13, 2020, the FBI removed Mr. Sam’s phone from inventory, powered the phone on, and took a photograph of the lock screen. (See Dkt. No. 55-2 at 2.) The photograph shows the name “STREEZY” right underneath the time and date.

Judge Coughenour ruled that the police were within their rights to look at the lock screen at the time of Sam’s arrest, as there are circumstances in which a search can be made at the time of an arrest without a warrant.

Investigators conducting a search later, however, need a warrant, said the judge.


  • ZedZed
    edited May 24
    Last paragraph has me scratching my head though...

    Previous courts have ruled that a suspect cannot be compelled to reveal their phone passcode, as that would violate their 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. However, it has been ruled that a suspect can be compelled to unlock their phone using Touch ID.
Sign In or Register to comment.