State of Florida v. Johnathan David Garcia SC20-1419

– Summary by Alize Delgado

On October 27th, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court considered whether requiring a defendant to
disclose the passcode to an encrypted smartphone would violate the defendant’s Fifth Amendment
constitutional right against self-incrimination. The Court concluded that before answering this
question, it must first address whether the Fifth District court properly granted certiorari, or review,
in the case below. Ultimately the Court held that, no, the Fifth District court did not properly grant
review because it did not have jurisdiction to do so.

This case arises out of the following set of facts. Defendant, Jonathan Garcia, allegedly shattered
his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend’s bedroom window where a smartphone was found nearby. A
month after the shattering of the window, the ex-girlfriend phoned the police to investigate a
potential tracker she discovered on her vehicle. The tracker was submitted into evidence under the
same case as the current boyfriends broken window. Garcia was charged with aggravated stalking
with a credible threat and with throwing a deadly missile into a building. The State eventually
obtained a search warrant to search the smartphone for evidence related to Garcia’s charges, but
the smartphone was protected by passcode. The State filed a motion to compel Garcia to disclose
the smartphone’s passcode, but Garcia declined to concede ownership of the smartphone and
argued it would be a violation of his Fifth Amendment right. The trial court granted the State’s
motion to compel. Garcia petitioned for review in the Fifth District and the Fifth District granted
the review and revoked the trial court’s order to compel without discussing whether Garcia had
demonstrated that the order would cause him irreparable harm. The State appealed to the Florida
Supreme Court.

In its analysis, the Court goes through the basic requirements for a district court to grant a writ of
certiorari, or review. The Court first finds that the trial court’s order compelling Garcia to produce
the passcode may materially injure his defense at trial. However, the Court then proceeds to explain
that Garcia could remedy the potential material injuries on a post judgment appeal of a final order.
Finally, the Court finds that the trial order to compel Garcia did not constitute a departure from the
essential requirements of the law. The Court held that the Fifth District court did not satisfy the
requirements to grant the review. The Court essentially terminated the Fifth District court’s
decision to grant the review and remanded for further proceedings.