Skip to content

Text Messages as Evidence in Court

Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

In the age of digital communication, text messages have become a valuable piece of evidence in various legal proceedings. With the widespread use of messaging apps and SMS, these digital communications often hold important information that can influence the outcome of both criminal and civil cases. They can provide a time-stamped record of conversations, intentions, and statements that may be pertinent to a case. However, the admissibility of text messages as court evidence hinges upon a strict set of legal criteria, which include relevance to the case and authentication that the messages are genuine and unaltered.

The process of using text messages as evidence can be intricate. Parties seeking to introduce texts into evidence must ensure they have properly preserved the messages, often starting with steps such as taking screenshots or using special software to export the messages in a format suitable for court. Moreover, it’s essential that the probative value of the messages is established without violating privacy laws or evidence rules. Authentication of digital evidence at trial requires showing that the evidence is what it purports to be.

Ultimately, the inclusion of text messages as evidence is determined by the court based on the rules of evidence, which assess the relevancy and authenticity of the information presented. A Chicago personal injury lawyer from Mike Agruss Law often navigates these rules to argue the admissibility of text messages, ensuring that they bear significance to the issues at hand without being outweighed by potential prejudice or other factors.

Judges Hammer

Admissibility of Text Messages as Evidence

In the digital age, text messages are increasingly being scrutinized and presented as evidence in legal proceedings. The admissibility of such messages hinges on stringent judicial standards, aimed at ensuring the integrity of the evidence.

Legal Standards for Admissibility

For text messages to be considered admissible as evidence in court, they must meet specific legal criteria grounded in the rules of evidence. The primary requirements are:

Authenticity: We ensure the text messages are genuine and not tampered with or falsified.

Relevance: We establish that the messages have a direct bearing on the case.

Prejudice vs. Probative Value: We balance the potential prejudicial impact against the importance of the content to the case.

Authentication of Electronic Evidence

To authenticate text messages as electronic evidence, one must typically demonstrate:

Ownership: There is a connection of the phone number or messaging account to the involved parties.

Authorship: We find evidence supporting that the messages originated from the alleged sender.

The messages’ integrity: We have proof that the content has not been altered since its purported creation.

The process may involve technical examinations or testimonies to establish the validity of the electronically stored information.

Relevance and Reliability Criteria

The relevance of text messages is assessed by whether they can make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Text messages also need to be reliable, which entails proving that the digital evidence has been preserved without changes and confirming that the content is consistent with other known facts in the case.

For further guidance on these principles, see the American Bar Association on authenticating digital evidence at trial.

Admissibility is a critical factor to consider when employing text messages as part of legal strategies. They can profoundly influence the dynamics and outcomes of both criminal and civil litigation.

The Use of Text Messages in Different Types of Cases

Text messages have increasingly become a crucial form of evidence in legal proceedings. Their content can support or undermine the claims and defenses of parties involved in both criminal and civil cases.

Text Messages in Criminal Cases

Text messages are often used to establish a sequence of events or demonstrate intent in criminal cases. These electronic pieces of evidence can corroborate or contradict witness testimony, often tipping the scales in favor of one side. For instance, text conversations can provide context to a defendant’s actions or reveal premeditation, making them more than just circumstantial evidence.

Text Messages in Civil Litigation

In the context of civil litigation, text messages can be instrumental in demonstrating contractual agreements, harassment, or the state of mind of a party. They are particularly impactful in cases such as divorce proceedings, where messages can show infidelity or intent to divorce, or in business litigation, where they might indicate an agreement or a breach of contract.

Texts serve as a written record that may confirm or dispute the statements made by parties involved, often carrying the same weight as traditional written correspondence. Considering their significance, authentication of these digital communications is paramount to ensure they’re admissible in court. This verification process is usually a straightforward requirement to fulfill, aiming to prove that the texts are genuine and emanate from the alleged author.

By presenting text messages as a form of direct evidence, the attorneys at Mike Agruss Law aim to strengthen their client’s position, whether to prove a claim or defend against one. Their inclusion in court cases underscores the evolution of evidentiary standards in the digital age.

Procedural Steps for Submitting Texts as Evidence

Text message evidence can be critical in legal proceedings. Proper procedures must be followed to ensure that such evidence is admissible in court. These procedures include lawful retrieval, satisfying court requirements, and overcoming evidentiary challenges.

Obtaining Text Messages from Service Providers

Obtaining text messages requires understanding how most cellular service providers handle data. Providers may store texts for only a brief period. Illinois law affirms that one can obtain these messages directly from the provider with the right authorization. The individual seeking the records typically must provide an account holder’s consent or a valid court order directing the provider to release the records.

Court Orders and Subpoenas

In cases where consent is not available, a court order or subpoena is necessary. The court must be persuaded that the text messages are relevant to the case. The requesting party must demonstrate that the information is:

  1. Relevant to the legal matter
  2. Specific in nature
  3. Not readily available by other means

Challenges in Presenting Text Evidence

Courtrooms rigorously scrutinize digital evidence. The integrity of the texts must be established, proving that they have not been altered. Two common methods to authenticate texts are providing metadata showing the origin of the message, such as phone numbers and timestamps, or testimony from someone with personal knowledge of the conversation.

Authenticating texts is fundamental, given that text messages can be fabricated or manipulated. The evidence must depict an accurate representation of the communication for the court to consider it.

Social Media and Text Message Overlap

In the digital age, the intersection of social media posts and text messages frequently plays a pivotal role in legal proceedings, providing a more comprehensive digital footprint of a person’s activities and intentions.

Corroborating Text Messages with Social Media

Corroboration of text messages with social media content is often imperative in establishing a timeline or demonstrating a party’s state of mind. Courts may scrutinize both mediums to assess the consistency and truthfulness of communication. For instance, a text message about plans to attend an event can be strengthened by a corresponding social media post from the event itself, creating a cohesive narrative of one’s actions.

Contact Our Firm to Learn More About the Impact of Texts and Social Posts on Case Outcomes

The impact of social media on case outcomes cannot be understated. Content from social media and taken from text messages is increasingly being used to influence the direction of civil proceedings.

If you’re interested in learning more about how text messages can potentially affect your case, contact our law firm.

Submitted Comments

No Comments submitted yet. Sharing your story will help others!

We are listening

We will respond to you at lightning speed. All of your information will be kept confidential.

Form successfully submitted!