Appeals Court Rules That People Can't Be Locked Up Indefinitely For Refusing To Decrypt Devices
Former Philadelphia policeman Francis Rawls has been locked up since 2015 for refusing to decrypt external hard drives the government claims contain child porn images. The government's claims are based on Rawls' sister's statements. She said Rawls showed her "hundreds" of child porn images that were located on these drives.
The government obtained an All Writs Order demanding Rawls decrypt the devices. This was challenged by Rawls, but unfortunately he did not preserve a Fifth Amendment challenge, so the Appeals Court let the government have its victory. It was a limited victory. It still had two locked drives Rawls claimed he could not remember the passwords for. But it also had Rawls jailed on civil contempt charges.
On September 30, 2015, Rawls was incarcerated for civil contempt after he failed to comply with a court order that he produce several of his seized devices in a fully unencrypted state. Since that day, more than four years ago, Rawls has been held in federal custody. Rawls seeks release arguing that 28 U.S.C. § 1826 limits his maximum permissible confinement for civil contempt to 18 months.