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The Problem

This year’s problem features a petitioner who was taken into custody for possession of narcotics.  A search was conducted by the arresting officer who found cash, a phone, and a cigarette package on petitioner’s person and a bag and a laptop in petitioner’s vehicle. 

At the station, the officer completed a record of booking and asked the petitioner routine booking questions regarding the items found in the search.   One routine booking question asked the petitioner who the phone belonged to.  The petitioner responded, "I do."  At the conclusion of the booking procedure, the officer read the petitioner his Miranda rights.

The police obtained a search warrant to inspect the laptop that was recovered from petitioner’s vehicle.  The inspection uncovered a file that was protected by a sophisticated software protection program.   The police were unable to gain access to this file.  The government issued a subpoena deuce tecum on the petitioner to produce wholly unencrypted version of the file.

The petitioner filed a motion to suppress the statement made in response to the booking question regarding ownership of the phone as an incriminating statement elicited prior to Miranda warnings.  The petitioner filed a motion to quash the subpoena for decrypted documents from the laptop for violating petitioner’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 

The trial court denied petitioner’s motion to suppress the statements made during the booking process because the government’s administrative purpose of record-keeping is a legitimate reason for asking whether property belongs to a suspect.  The trial court denied petitioner’s motion to quash the subpoena because the court believed the contents of the computer file were a foregone conclusion, and not testimonial in nature.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.  The petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which was granted by the Supreme Court of the United States for the following questions:

(1) Whether the "routine booking" exception to Miranda applies to questions about a suspect’s property during the booking process.
(2) Whether a suspect compelled to provide unencrypted data can invoke the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.