The most modern smartphones do use numerical codes to open, but they also use fingerprint scanners. This way, only the phone's owner -- or other people who have been intentionally added -- can open it.

So, if you're arrested and the police want to unlock your phone to look for evidence, can they force you to use the fingerprint scanner to open it? Do they have the right to make you scan your print in, even if you don't want to do so?

The Precedent Is Set

Current rulings indicate that yes, police can make you open your phone. In one case, the warrant given out even said that officers could physically put a woman's finger on the scanner in order to open it. This way, even if she resisted, they could physically force her to comply with the order.

This precedent was set in February of 2016, by a federal judge out of Los Angeles. The woman in question was dating a man who was said to be in an Armenian gang, though investigators didn't indicate exactly what they thought was on her device. The first ruling that gave the judge that power, though, came from a case in 2014. The ruling saying law enforcement could make people comply was passed down in Virginia. It just wasn't used until 2016, on the other side of the country.

Your Code Is Protected

It is very interesting to note that the police can't make you tell them the numerical code, though. Since you have that memorized, the information in your mind is protected by the Fifth Amendment. The fingerprint scanners are not. As such, it's important that many phones lock out even the fingerprint scanners after a period of 48 hours, or after the phone is restarted. If this happens, police can't force people to tell them the code.

Technology and Your Rights

Advances in technology often create complex legal situations and bring up many questions about rights and constitutional protections. If you're facing charges and these questions come up, make sure you know what precedents and court orders have been used in the past and how they help define your rights.