Can Text Messages Be Used as Evidence (Yes As An Admission Of A Party)
With the ever-increasing use of texting as a way to communicate ideas, information, requests, and just about any other form of verbal sharing between two or more persons, it is becoming more and more useful as a tool for evidence in court. Texting can be saved with the date and time of production which makes it easy to verify when it comes to needing accurate proof at mediation or in a courtroom.There are, however, some very legitimate concerns regarding the inclusion of text messages as evidence. As in most legal matters, each state has its own set of rules and guidelines regarding legal issues, and the use of texting as evidence is no exception. Using Florida as an example, the following considerations are concerns.
Hearsay: as defined by Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, hearsay is “Evidence that is offered by a witness of which they do not have direct knowledge but, rather their testimony is based on what others have said to them.” As defined by Wex Legal Dictionary “Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of whatever it asserts.” In otherwords, information from a text message was established outside the courtroom and so not taken under oath and the answer to direct questioning. The judge cannot observe the person who texted, unless it is the witness using his or her text as evidence, nor examine him or her as to their mental, physical, or emotional health.While this type of evidence is often not admissible, there are exceptions to this rule. These can include the person testifying is the one who sent the text, the person receiving the text sends a specific text answer to that particular text, or the text refers to specific, existing documents such as birth or death certificates, medical reports, or legal judgments.Overall, the admission of texts as non-hearsay evidence must qualify as exceptions under the Federal Rule 803 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Preserving Evidence is vitally important as without the entire text in question being preserved is such a way so it can be stored on another device, displayed for others to see,and able to be printed it is unlikely to be allowed as evidence.
Authenticity or proving the text was in fact written,sent and received by the person (s) the witness so states must be accomplished. A judge must be able to see the entire conversation, not just a part of it. It is best if there is a witness who can testify that they either knew about the text or in fact sent or received it, or was witness to the fact the text was written and sent or received. It is also important to a text being admissible that the answer to the text is clearly about the text which was sent.If a text refers directly to the situation such as accusing the party of a known adjudicated offense or witnessed altercation,it helps to authenticate and allow for the text to be admitted as evidence. Also, when a phone company or other valid business can prove the existence of a text,it will help allow court admission.
As can easily be seen, at present, the admission of a text as evidence needs to be carefully examined before it is presented at a mediation or in the courtroom. Obtaining advice from a legal professional from your state of residence is imperative. If you live in Florida in the county of Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, or Orange, Family Law Attorney Grant Gisondo can help guide you with concerns regarding the admissions of texts for legal proof. He offers a free, initial, in-office consultation where he will meet with you personally to answer questions and share how he can help. He is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and, for new clients, on Saturday from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM. His office phone number is (561) 530-4568 to call for an appointment.