News Release

NACDL's Fourth Amendment Center Releases Compelled Decryption Primer

Washington, DC (April 30, 2019) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Fourth Amendment Center released a new primer for defense lawyers on the topic of compelled decryption, which is when law enforcement seeks to require an individual to unlock and decrypt their personal electronic device(s). More and more such cases are finding their way into the courts. This primer outlines the state of the law on compelled decryption and offers a guide for defense lawyers on litigating this important emerging issue.

“Courts are not in agreement on the developing issue of compelled decryption and so, consistent with the mission of NACDL’s recently-launched Fourth Amendment Center, NACDL has released this primer to help defense lawyers navigate this developing area of the law and equip them with both case law and arguments to aid in vindicating the constitutional rights of their clients,” said NACDL President Drew Findling. “Keeping the criminal defense bar armed with the very best, cutting-edge legal education and materials is a critically-important NACDL priority and it is key to the safeguarding of the fundamental rights of all people in America, a value NACDL cherishes.”

Senior Litigation Counsel for NACDL’s Fourth Amendment Center Michael Price and NACDL Fourth Amendment Center Legal Fellow Zach Simonetti penned an important piece published today at Just Security on this issue and the primer NACDL released – “Split Over Compelled Decryption Deepens With Massachusetts Case.”

NACDL's Fourth Amendment Center offers direct assistance to defense lawyers handling cases involving new technologies and tactics that may infringe on privacy rights of Americans. The Center's staff is available to help members of the defense bar in bringing new Fourth Amendment challenges, providing a range of support: from training and resources to expert consultation and direct litigation, all free of charge.

To request assistance or additional information, contact

A direct link to the NACDL Fourth Amendment Center Compelled Decryption Primer is available here.

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.