The newest page in the battle between the digital age and our legal system is unfolding in Denver Colorado this week. A judge has ordered a woman to provide an unencrypted version of her laptop’s hard drive.
As reported by the Huffington Post, Denver resident Ramona Friscosu was ordered by a judge to provide a password to her encrypted hard drive. This could potentially implicate her in additional crimes.
The decision was based on the precedent that turning over a password to your hard drive would be tantamount to self-incrimination. According to The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you are protected from directly incriminating yourself in a courtroom.
Self-incrimination can occur as either direct or indirect. Interrogations which force people to incriminate themselves are direct, obviously. A situation where you are forced to turn over the password to a computer that might implicate you in a crime is an indirect way.
However, is this ruling not the same thing as forcing someone to turn over a password?
Friscosu’s attorney Philip Dubois is currently appealing the court’s decision.
This case has civil liberties groups across the nation riled up. They oppose the courts ruling, saying that this is an invasion of U.S. citizens’ rights in the digital world.
However, prosecutors rebut saying that if people are able to beat search warrants on computers by encrypting their hard drives, investigators have no legitimate method to obtain evidence.
This puts the legal system between a rock and a hard place. It seems that computer users have found a loophole in the law. Forcing the defendant to turn over her hard drive unencrypted is self-incrimination. However, how can the justice system proceed if criminals can beat the law with an easy click of a button? More will unfold in the coming weeks in this case.