Phone passcode dispute goes to Florida Supreme Court

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about authorities seeking to force a criminal defendant to turn over a passcode to a cell phone.

Moody’s office filed a notice this week that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue, after a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with a defendant in an Alachua County robbery case. As is common, the notice did not detail arguments that will be raised by Moody’s office, but the appeals court last month also asked the Supreme Court to resolve constitutional questions in the case — a move known as certifying questions of “great public importance” to the Supreme Court.

In the case, police obtained a warrant to seize an iPhone from robbery defendant Matthew Tyler Pollard’s car and asked a judge to force him to turn over the passcode. The divided appeals court overturned a circuit judge’s order that would have required Pollard to turn over the passcode, pointing to 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination and raising concerns that authorities could undertake a “fishing expedition.”

Similar issues have confronted courts elsewhere in Florida and across the country.

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