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November 20, 2019

HARRISBURG - The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania today reaffirmed the right of a person charged with a criminal offense to not incriminate themselves, ruling in a case in which the government wanted to force Joseph Davis of Luzerne County to reveal his computer password. Davis is represented in his criminal case by the Luzerne County Public Defender, and the appeal before the state Supreme Court was argued by counsel from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

The following can be attributed to Peter Goldberger, president of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who presented the argument before the state Supreme Court:

“The fundamental issue in this case is the right of every person who is investigated by the police to avoid self-incrimination by remaining silent and keeping their personal thoughts private. The state and federal constitutions promise that people accused of crimes have the right to defend their own liberty. They are under no obligation to assist the police or prosecutors in building a case against them by divulging their innermost thoughts.

“With this ruling, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has reaffirmed fundamental privacy rights, against the wishes of government agents who advocated for a radical transformation of our criminal justice system. 

“The ACLU will always fight to ensure that these rights continue to mean as much in the digital age as they did to the founders of this nation and commonwealth, and we are grateful that the state Supreme Court has now made clear that it agrees with us on these fundamental, historic American principles.”

The case is Commonwealth v. Davis, J. More information about this case is available at aclupa.org/Davis.

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