Law enforcement needs a warrant only to look at the lock screen of your phone, according to a new court ruling.

In the U.S. ruled Judge John Coughenour District Court in Seattle that when they took a photo of the lock screen of his Motorola smartphone the FBI violated a man's constitutional rights.

Last year Joseph Sam was arrested in May and charged with robbery and assault. One of the arresting officers turned on his cell, and stared at the screen of the door. The act may have been lawful, according to Coughenour.

Seven months after Sam's arrest, the FBI pulled his phone out of inventory in February 2020, turned it on, and took a snapshot of the lock screen showing the word "Streezy." According to the judge, it violated Sam's Fourth Amendment rights.

The government has tried to make the case that the lock screen of a phone is visible to anyone who has influence on the phone, so privacy can not be expected. The judge downplayed this argument saying that "when the government gains evidence by physically intruding into a constitutionally protected area," that doesn't matter.

"The FBI physically intruded on the personal effect of Mr. Sam when the FBI powered his phone to take a picture of the lock screen of the phone," the judge ruled. That meant the FBI was conducting a search without a warrant.

The motion to remove information gathered from Sam's mobile phone has been granted in part as a result of the judge's findings. The judge still wants more information from the arresting officers regarding the initial search.

In the past, courts have ruled that a suspect can not be forced with their passcode to unlock their phone, but they can be made to unlock their phone using the Touch ID. However, a last year ruling challenged that view.