The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today a man under investigation by a grand jury in Middlesex County can be ordered to unlock his iPhone for investigators, in part because he's already told them what sort of information they might find there.
The court, ruling in the case of a man under investigation for assault and battery on two children in Lowell, said that the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination does not apply in cases where the information investigators would find is "a foregone conclusion."
A superior-court judge had stayed an order sending the man to jail pending his appeal; today's ruling means he has to comply or go to jail until he relents.
In this case, the Middlesex County District Attorney's office had previously submitted evidence that the man owned the iPhone in question and:
[T]he Commonwealth demonstrated sufficient knowledge to show that the factual statements that the petitioner's act of entering his PIN code would convey are foregone conclusions. As summarized in the grand jury materials submitted to the judge under seal, the Commonwealth already knew that the iPhone contained files that were relevant to its investigation based, in part, on information provided by the petitioner. In addition, the Commonwealth knew that a PIN code was necessary to access the iPhone, that the petitioner possessed and controlled the iPhone, and that the petitioner knows the PIN code and is able to enter it. Accordingly, the Commonwealth established independently and with specificity the authenticity, existence, and possession of the compelled information.
Thus, the order does not require the petitioner to communicate information that would fall within constitutional self-incrimination protection. The affidavit in support of the search warrant application established that the Commonwealth had probable cause to believe that the iPhone contained evidence of the crimes that are the subject of the grand jury investigation. The order simply allows execution of that warrant.