A lot of people assume that the police are required to read a suspect his Miranda rights upon arrest. That is, they assume that one of a person’s rights is the right to be read their rights. It often happens that way on Law & Order, but that’s not what the law actually requires. The police aren’t required to follow Miranda. Miranda is a set of rules the government can chose to follow if they want to admit a person’s statements in a criminal case in court, not a set of rules they have to follow in every case.

—   Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy

There’s been a fair amount of misinformation circulated over the past week about Miranda warnings. Lawprof Orin Kerr’s short piece at The Volokh Conspiracy presents a nice summary of the basics, including the effects of not giving the Miranda warning to a suspect.

Can the Government Force You to Decrypt your Electronic Device or Hand over Your Password?

Hopefully, at some point, the Supreme Court will weigh in on the question, as lower court decisions conflict on the answer. The result might differ depending on the context (at the U.S. border as a result of a customs search or as a result of a police stop or search which took place within the U.S.), whether the government already knows the laptop contains incriminating evidence, and, perhaps, whether the government requests the password or seeks an order for the owner to decrypt the device (without revealing the password). In the latest case, a federal judge in Colorado, ordered a laptop owner to release the contents of her computer’s encrypted hard drive. The court’s order.

The Verge: ”Decrypting Laptop Doesn’t Count as Self-Incrimination, US Federal Judge Rules”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation: ”Disappointing Ruling in Compelled Laptop Decryption Case”

The EFF’s amicus brief in the case.

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy”Encryption and the Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination:”
“The Court ends up ordering the defendant to decrypt the hard drive, but only because the court made a factual finding that in this specific case, the government already knew the information that could be incriminating — and as a result, was a ‘foregone conclusion’ that dissipated the Fifth Amendment privilege. If I’m reading Fricosu correctly, the Court is not saying that there is no Fifth Amendment privilege against being forced to divulge a password. Rather, the Court is saying that the Fifth Amendment privilege can’t be asserted in a specific case where it is known based on the facts of the case that the computer belongs to the suspect and the suspect knows the password. Because the only incriminating message of being forced to decrypt the password — that the suspect has control over the computer — is already known, it is a ‘foregone conclusion’ and the Fifth Amendment privilege cannot block the government’s application.”

photo © 2012 j.r.mchale