Do you need to give the police your phone password?

The Short answer is no. If the police seize your phone during a search, you don’t need to give them your password so they can open it. Section 7 of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you interests in life, liberty, and security of the person. Included here are your rights to protect yourself against self-incrimination and to remain silent before a trial has started. By giving up your phone password during a search or investigation, you are acting as a witness against yourself.


Courts have upheld this right as well. In R v Shergill, police applied for a warrant to search Mr. Shergill’s phone for evidence of child pornography. Alongside applying for the warrant, they applied for an assistance order so that Mr. Shergill would have to unlock his phone for authorities. The Court rejected the application for an assistance order by upholding Mr. Shergill’s right to remain silent and not testify against himself.


One exception to this rule is at the U.S border. American Customs and Border Protection agents have the power to compel you to unlock your phone during a border search. If you don’t comply, they can seize the device for further review.


If you ever find yourself in a situation where the police are executing a warrant and ask for the password to your phone, computer, or any other electronic device, do two things. First, kindly say no. Second, give us a call at Ron Ellis Law. Searches are stressful. We have the experience to make sure that your rights aren’t violated when they’re most vulnerable.


Ron Ellis Law is a criminal defence firm based in London, Ontario and we practice criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener.

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