Can Text Messages Be Legal Proof?
A text message thread seems like the perfect proof of wrongdoing since it’s physical evidence. However, text messages taken out of context may only be proof until placed back into the full conversation of texts. Once your phone texts get involved with a filed complaint or lawsuit, you can expect it to be thoroughly searched by your lawyer and possibly the opposing lawyer as well.
Can Text Messages Be Legal Proof?
Text messages as legal proof seem the obvious answer to proving ongoing sexual harassment by a supervisor or boss. But, the full conversation may reveal that you encouraged the behavior. If the full conversation reveals this to be the situation, you likely don’t have a case. Texts are only useful if all of them support your claim.
The Power of the Written Word
We all know that the written word is binding and has the ability to ruin lives when private messages are blasted throughout the internet. In this day and age, inflammatory private messages can become viral in minutes. Private messages can be the new “digital lipstick on your collar.” Angry texts between ex-partners can also complicate divorce proceedings as well as child custody.
Text messages can be a useful tool for a lawsuit, but the text messages must meet certain criteria before they can truly become evidence.
3 Steps to Proving the Validity of Your Text Messages
Text messages as legal proof may seem straight forward to you. But, can you be certain that those texts really were written by the person you think? How can you confirm the identity of the sender of those messages? You will need to prove this and more.
Text messages must pass three tests before they might be useful legal proof. Those categories are preservation of the evidence, authentication, and hearsay.
1. Preservation of the Evidence: Save the Text Messages.
You must save the entire conversation of text messages, whether you screenshot the conversation or save the entire conversation in another way. Email the texts to yourself and print out a copy as well. The saved conversation needs to be easily accessible for sharing and displaying for a deposition or trial.
The entire conversation is crucial because it provides context. Yes, that means you must save your own texts as well.
2. Authentication: Proving Who Sent the Texts.
To build a stronger case, you must be able to prove that the texts were written by who you say they were. Coming from your boss’s phone number is not enough to prove that he or she were the actual authors. A lawyer knows all the details for authentication, but if you can already prove who sent the texts, more authentication will confirm it to be so.
Proving who sent the texts can be done in a few ways.
- Personal admission of sending texts
- Someone witnessed the texts being written
- Message characteristics
- Proof from circumstances
- Reply texts in clear response to original text also known as reply authentication
3. Hearsay: Show the Relevance of Texts as Evidence
If a judge decides that your text messages are, in fact, hearsay, then your texts will not be the rock-solid evidence that you were hoping. Therefore, you must know how to prove that your texts are true. Since text messages as evidence are “out-of-court statements,” they are likely to be categorized as hearsay unless they fit an exception.
Determining whether texts fit a hearsay exemption is tricky. For example, party admissions, where the person who sent the text is also who you’re suing, is an exception to hearsay. Other hearsay exemptions can be based on text relevance, best evidence available, and the value of the text outweighing unfair prejudice. Each situation must be analyzed on its own facts.
Contact a Lawyer to Determine your Text Messages as Legal Proof
Text messages are a vital part of daily communication with trillions of text messages being sent throughout a year. The efficiency and immediacy of communication has exploded, but text messages aren’t always good, especially when they become evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, a texting conversation can be flat out incriminating.
Although a warrant is required to search or seize a cell phone, employees can choose to offer up their device in order to sue an employer or a supervisor. With a lawyer’s help, the three categories above can be overcome and text messages can be used as evidence. To test the validity of your text messages as evidence, contact a lawyer today to discuss your situation, the text messages, and your goals for filing a lawsuit.