Police visit funeral home to unlock dead man's phone

Gwen Vasquez
April 24, 2018

Two officers went unannounced to the funeral home where Phillip's body was located and used his finger in an attempt to unlock his cell phone.

At the Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home, two detectives came up to Phillip's corpse and held up his hand to a cellphone fingerprint censor; however, they were unable to unlock the device, reported CBS News.

The incident raised questions of whether the tactic was legal or ethical.

Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, said that the investigating officers' act has left her feeling violated and disrespected.

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"While the deceased person doesn't have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn't pass the smell test", professor and director of the Center or Excellence in Advocacy at Stetson University College of Law Charles Rose said.

KitGuru Says: It is certainly questionable considering the family's grief, however the role Phillip may or may not have played in the crime outweighs morals in the eyes of the law. Accessing devices from private individuals to help with an investigation is still a hotly-contested topic, so if a person is dead, it becomes even more problematic. And after all that, the phone still did not unlock. According to the AP, for the most part, legal experts agree that what the officers did was in their legal right.

Officers also only have five attempts to get the correct corpse digit onto the touch sensor before, again, an iPhone will lock itself. Such an issue regularly comes up ever since advanced biometric systems were introduced to smartphones.

Detectives in Largo, Florida apparently accessed a dead man's fingerprint in order to unlock his smartphone as part of their investigation into his death and the criminal activities that may have led to it.

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