Do I Have To Give The Police The PIN For My Phone?
Do I have to give police my Phone PIN?
In many criminal investigations the police may want to examine peoples phones. Most modern phones have a PIN number to prevent unauthorised access, and the police will often ask for this to enable them to get access to your phone.
In most circumstances the police can’t force you to disclose a PIN for your phone. However sometimes they can obtain permission from a judge to require you to hand over your PIN. If they do this and you still don’t provide it then you could end up going to prison.
When Can The Police Obtain Permission To Require You to Hand Over Your PIN?
If your phone has been seized by the police, or circumstances have arisen where police have the power to inspect your phone, they can give you notice that they require you to provide the phone PIN or “encryption key” to allow them access. The same applies to other devices such as computers.
Written permission must be obtained from a Judge or a District Judge before the police can give you notice that they will require your PIN number.
The police officer requesting the information must believe, on reasonable grounds:
that the key or PIN is in your possession;
that the notice is necessary for the grounds listed below, or it is necessary for the purpose of securing the effective exercise or proper performance by any public authority of any statutory power or duty
the notice is proportionate; and
that it is not reasonably practicable for the person to obtain possession of the protected information without the giving of a notice.
A notice is “necessary” only if it is:
in the interests of national security;
for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or
it is in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK.
What Would “Notice” Be?
A notice has to
be in writing (or otherwise recorded)
set out the protected information to which it relates
set out the grounds for requiring it
specify the office, rank or position of the person giving it
specify the office, rank or position of the person granting permission for it to be given
specify the time by which the notice is to be complied with
set out what disclosure is required and how it is to be provided.
Many police forces give notices to suspects requiring their PIN when they haven’t got permission to do this from a judge. This is one of the sort of things that a competent solicitor will always check.
This is why you should always seek the advice of a specialist criminal solicitor before complying with any request.
What If I Do Not Know The PIN?
If you do not comply with a properly given notice, you can be prosecuted. If you know the information required and refuse to provide it, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 2 years imprisonment or 5 years imprisonment for an offence involving national security or child indecency.
If you genuinely do not know the information then this is a defence. If you raise it the prosecution would then have to prove that you did know it and were simply refusing to hand it over.
If the police are asking you to hand over your phone or the PIN number for it then contact us immediately.