Man Who Refused to Decrypt Hard Drives Free After Four Years

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Four years ago a federal judge held Francis Rawls in contempt when he refused to decrypt hard drives for police.

The practical result is that, at least in federal court, someone can only be imprisoned for 18 months for refusing to open an encrypted device. That’s probably a harsh-enough penalty to induce most people to comply with decryption orders. But suspects in child-pornography cases might be tempted to “forget” the passwords on their encrypted device if doing so could save them from a conviction and a much longer prison term.

What an interesting case, and I remember reading about it four years ago. I wonder if the court was trying to set a precedent for passwords and the Fifth Amendment.