July 9, 2018
What happens when a judge orders you to unlock your phone because it may contain evidence, and you decline the invitation?
You go to jail. That’s the lesson that William Montanez learned.
Montanez was driving through Tampa last month when he was pulled over for not properly yielding. He declined the officer’s invitation to allow a search of his car, so the police brought in a drug-sniffing dog, after which a small amount of marijuana was discovered. At that, the police asked for permission to search his cell phones. Montanez again declined the offer. So the police went to court to obtain a search warrant. Which they got.
And here’s where it gets fun.
Montanez’s attorney argued that there was not a sufficient legal basis for the warrant in the first place. The judge disagreed, and the phones were handed over to law enforcement. Montanez, however, said that the two phones were new and that he couldn’t remember their passwords. The judge didn’t seem either convinced or sympathetic, and ruled that Montanez was in civil contempt.
So Montanez is in jail, and will spend six months there, unless he suddenly remembers the passwords.
On the other hand, if what the cell phones might reveal would ultimately bring him MORE than six months, he may just want to stay put.