When you think of the most personal things in your possession, does your cellular phone come to mind? These days, almost everybody has a powerful little personal computer right in their purse, pocket or bag — and the business they conduct on their phones is often highly private in nature. Most people wouldn’t want anybody taking a peek into their messages, emails, search history or anything else without their consent.

Unfortunately, if you happen to be arrested in New Jersey, you may not have any option when it comes to letting the authorities nose through your private communications. In August, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that it’s not a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to force a criminal defendant to hand over the password to their phone.

While the decision by the court was close and the dissent was fierce, the ruling could have far-reaching implications that go well beyond the case at hand and the borders of the state. Federal and state authorities all over the nation have long been frustrated by the ability of defendants to lock away electronic data with passcodes and security protections that have gotten increasingly hard to bypass.

One detractor said, “The court’s decision is a major defeat to the United States Constitution when it is already under substantial attack.” He went on to warn that it may be time to rethink keeping anything private or personal on your electronic devices if you want to keep it away from the government’s eyes — whether you’re a criminal or not.

Now, more than ever, you don’t want to take chances with your liberty if you’re accused of a crime. Speak to an experienced defense attorney before you do anything else.