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Federal Court Ruling In Local Case Could Have Ripples In Cyber Security

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Federal Appeals Court has ruled on a local case that could affect the future of cyber security.

The court rejected the argument from a former Philadelphia police sergeant who cited his right against self-incrimination. Francis Rawls refused to disclose his computer passwords in a child porn investigation.

Silicon Valley attorney, Mark Rumold -- filed the amicus brief.

"This is an issue we're seeing time and time again across the country where law enforcement is attempting to compel people to disclose their pass codes so that they can search your cell phone or your search your computer," Rumold said.

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Rawls has been jailed for contempt for more than a year even though he has not been charged with a crime.

The Third Circuit ruled the police already have evidence on other devices belonging to Rawls; therefore, the court says he would not be incriminating himself by helping them access encrypted material.

"In my mind the 5th amendment is pretty clear, law enforcement can not compel an individual to disclose information from their mind, in order to aid in a criminal prosecution against them," he said.

Rumold says this ruling doesn't change much and that lower courts are approaching these cases in different ways but adds one day the Supreme court is going to have to step in.

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