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Landmark Fifth Amendment case could have a big impact on law enforcement

Landmark Fifth Amendment case could have a big impact on law enforcement
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

When it comes to the federal government nailing white collar criminals, or trying to, you hear "I plead the Fifth" a lot from the accused. They're referring to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which says suspected criminals do not have to incriminate themselves.

In other words, if a suspect is accused of crimes like insider trading, they don't have to divulge evidence that may be used against them. So, the government has to uncover that evidence themselves. In recent years, people like former IRS executive Lois Lerner have pleaded the Fifth, and avoided a trial.

In cases like that, people plead the Fifth to avoid saying something that will incriminate them. But what if those potentially damaging words are texts or emails hidden behind passwords?

Well, one judge in Pennsylvania says the Fifth Amendment protects people from incriminating themselves by divulging their smartphone password. The case involved two men accused of insider trading.

The Security and Exchange Commission wanted to examine their smartphones, which had been provided to them by their employer. However, their employer had also instructed its employees to choose their own passwords for those smartphones.

Next page: Will the SEC prevail in demanding access to smartphones?
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