A man has died after being shot by the police, and officers showed up at his funeral to use his fingerprints in an attempt to unlock his smartphone.
Fingerprint sensors are pretty much ubiquitous nowadays, adding an extra layer of security so that the content stored on one's smartphone is not available to prying eyes. When the smartphone's owner dies, however, it gets complicated to unlock the device, and in some cases, it's deemed necessary.
Police Try To Unlock Phone With Dead Man's Finger
According to a report from Tampa Bay Times, police shot and killed 30-year-old Linus Phillip at a gas station on March 23, after he had resisted a search and tried to drive away.
Authorities later thought that the man's smartphone might hold clues that would be valuable in the investigation into his death as well as a separate probe related to drugs.
By the time the police got their hands on Phillip's smartphone, the man's body had already left state custody and got to the funeral home in Largo, Florida. Determined to get access to his locked smartphone for potential evidence, two detectives went to the funeral and attempted to unlock the device using the deceased's fingerprints, to no avail.
Although several publications had reported on the matter, none of them disclosed the type of smartphone in question. Nowadays, a wide range of smartphones ranging from iPhones to Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Google Pixel phones, and others have featured biometric authentication, so it's impossible to guess which model was at stake.
Either way, the unlocking attempt was reportedly unsuccessful, In addition to not getting what they wanted, the police are also facing criticism for their lack of sensitivity.
Is It Legal?
When the news broke out, so did questions of whether trying to unlock a smartphone with a dead man's fingerprints, at his funeral, is legal. Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, was at the funeral when the detectives arrived and proceeded with their attempt to unlock the device. Armstrong said that she felt "disrespectful and violated."
The deed might be considered morbid, ghoulish, or insensitive by some but it is not illegal. There is no longer an expectation of privacy after death, and the police no longer need a warrant, thus, the act is not forbidden by law.
It remains unclear now whether the police will resort to other tactics or solutions to unlock the smartphone or they will try to gather evidence from someplace else.