Florida police are in the news this week after attempting to unlock a smartphone using a deceased man’s finger. The Florida police department in Largo shot and killed 30-year old Linus Phillip after they said he tried to drive off before a search. The shooting was ruled to be justified but when detectives showed up at the funeral home to attempt to use Phillip’s finger to unlock his phone, it raised eyebrows.
While it isn’t illegal for Florida police to do this, some are questioning if it was fitting. The deceased man’s fiance, Victoria Armstrong, said she “felt so disrespected and violated.” The police were unsuccessful in their attempts to unlock the device with Phillip’s finger.
“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,” said Charles Rose, professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy at Stetson University College of Law. “There’s a ghoulish component to it that’s troubling to most people.”
Phillip was shot and killed March 23 at a Wawa gas station after police said he tried to drive away when an officer was about to search him. According to Chaney, there’s a 48- to 72-hour window to access a phone using the fingerprint sensor. Police got the phone back within that window but after the body was released from state custody to the funeral home.
We’re sure this isn’t the first time police have tried to unlock a smartphone using a deceased person’s finger but it does surface the debate. If police are legally allowed to make these attempts, should they do it in a more appropriate way? Or should police even have this power?
Last Updated on April 23, 2018.