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Judge Rules Phone Passwords Not Protected by Constitution
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Hencha Voigt and YesJulz. Photos courtesy of The Miami Herald.

Summary: A recent extortion case ruled that defendants must give up their cell phone passwords if requested by the police. 

Is your cell phone password protected under the Fifth Amendment? After a crazy “sextortion” case between the scum of the earth–Instagram models–one judge ruled on Wednesday that no, your password is up for grabs by the police if they request it. The defendants’ attorneys fought back against the judge, stating that forcing their clients to reveal their passwords is the same as making them give self-incriminating testimony, a violation of their Constitutional rights. Because of the impact this case may have on future ones, this D-list crime is being closely watched by legal analysts.

  
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The case in question involves Instagram model Hencha Voigt, 29, and her ex-boyfriend Wesley Victor, 34, and their attempt to extort fellow Instagram model “YesJulz,” CNN reports. Voigt and her then-boyfriend texted YesJulz that if she didn’t give them $18,000 then the couple would release sexually explicit videos and photos of her.

YesJulz, real name Julieanna Goddard, has almost 500,000 Instagram followers and is also known as the “Queen of Snapchat.” The Kardashian-like clone has gained fame by posting pictures of her partying around the world with rappers and athletes.

Voigt also has a significant following on Instagram and is a reality star as well. She appears on E! Network’s WAGS Miami, which profiles the glamorous and annoying wives and girlfriends of athletes in the Florida city.

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As part of the investigation by the Miami police, the cops needed the defendant’s passwords to access their locked cell phones. Attorneys for Voigt and Victor refused to hand them over, saying that providing a password was self-incriminating and violated the Fifth Amendment.

“They’re asking for the passcode so they can keep on searching what’s on the phone — which may be incriminating my client — and then use that against her,” Voigt’s attorney Kertch Conze said to CNN.



On Tuesday in court, Conze called the police’s request of the passwords a “fishing expedition.”

“You are asking my client to be compelled to divulge her thought process. This is not a fingerprint, or a blood sample for DNA purposes,” Conze said, according to The Miami Herald.“It’s what is in her mind and what we believe can be incriminating and a violation of her right to remain silent.”

Voigt and Victor, who have both pled not guilty, were arrested the same day last July that they threatened YesJulz, and their phones were confiscated. The ex-couple was charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and unlawful use of a communication device.

The question of what police have access to when it comes to technology is still being figured out. For instance, last year’s case against Apple is one example of how the law is not yet clear when it comes to investigators’ access to our phones. During the Apple case, law enforcement wanted the tech company to create software that would allow them access into the iPhone of the alleged San Bernardino shooter. Apple refused to comply, stating that the action would violate the trust of their users. The government eventually dropped their request after a third party figured out how to hack the phone.

Prosecutors in this case have relied on the precedent of a Sarasota appeals case that allowed police to force an upskirting suspect into giving up his password. In other parts of the country, judges are still in debate on whether or not it is Constitutional to force a password reveal.

Do you think defendants should give up their passwords to the police? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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