Smartphone code at center of self-incrimination ruling

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — A suburban Indianapolis woman who was held in contempt of court when she refused to unlock her smartphone for police investigators is protected by the U.S. Constitution's right against self-incrimination, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court reversed the contempt order against Katelin Seo, 29, of Carmel, determining that forcing her to unlock her iPhone for police would violate the Fifth Amendment, The Indianapolis Star reported.

“By unlocking her smartphone, Seo would provide law enforcement with information it does not already know, which the State could then use in its prosecution against her,” the court said.

Seo was charged with harassment and stalking in 2017. Hamilton County authorities wanted the pass code to her iPhone 7. Her attorney William Webster, argued that by unlocking her phone for police, she would essentially be helping them build a case against her.

The case has since been resolved. Seo is serving a prison sentence in an unrelated case.

Webster has said the state never revealed what exactly it was looking for on the phone.

The state argued said it had evidence showing that Seo used the cellphone to talk to the male victim in the case.

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