Skip to Content
Offices in Cleveland & Columbus, Ohio 216-928-7700

Federal Judge Forces US Capitol Rioter to Unlock His Laptop: Lawful Search and Seizure or Violation of the Right Against Self-In

facial recognition

In July, a Federal Judge forced alleged US Capitol rioter, Guy Reffitt, to unlock his laptop using facial recognition. Mr. Reffitt has been charged with five federal crimes, including bringing a handgun to the Capitol grounds during the insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted area, and obstruction of justice. Earlier this year, investigators lawfully seized Mr. Reffitt’s laptop pursuant to a valid search warrant. However, the laptop was locked, and the investigators were unable to access the device. Prosecutors believed that Mr. Reffitt’s laptop contained video footage from a camera Mr. Reffitt was wearing during the insurrection.

After holding a hearing on the matter, the federal judge granted the Prosecution’s request and forced Mr. Reffitt to sit in front of his laptop, unlocking it through facial recognition technology. The judge noted that requiring Mr. Reffitt to expose his face to unlock the computer was lawful and consistent with other routine procedures such as standing in a lineup, submitting a handwriting sample, or submitting a blood or DNA sample. However, opponents of this decision believe that it was a violation of Mr. Reffitt’s rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Read more about the case here.

As technology changes, the Courts and Justice System must adapt to keep up. Often, these adaptations happen quickly and must be balanced against the rights of criminal defendants. Accordingly, it is ever important to have a well-trained and knowledgeable advocate. At Friedman Nemecek Long & Grant, L.L.C., our federal criminal defense attorneys have years of experience dealing with ever changing technology-based procedures and policies, court decisions, and securing the rights of defendants throughout criminal proceedings. As new policies continue to change with technology, our criminal defense lawyers are prepared and ready to help you with any issues.

If you have questions regarding your rights in criminal proceedings, please call Friedman Nemecek Long & Grant, L.L.C., L.L.C., in Cleveland, OH at 216-928-7700 for a free initial consultation.