Are text messages admissible in court?
If you are in a case where your texts might be relevant, you may be wondering if they are admissible.
Whether your text messages could help you or hurt, you’ll want to know how the court will treat them.
If you have been recently charged and need to know if your text messages will be used in court reach out to a criminal defense attorney to get more details.
The truth is, text messages are a new area for the law to consider.
So is social media.
The rules on evidence have been around for many years.
Fast, ubiquitous, and electronic forms of communication didn’t exist before, so courts are trying to apply old rules to new mediums.
Texting and social media are very new ways to communicate in general.
But, they are especially new for courts deciding whether or not they can be admissible as evidence.
The problem becomes when text messages have a particular value or can provide insight into a case.
Since many of us don’t chat on the phone anymore, text messages often provide the bulk of communication between parties.
Social media posts can also give a lot of insight into someone’s thoughts or actions.
They can even log where an individual was at a specific time.
If you are in the middle of a criminal case, it can be very stressful to wonder, “Are text messages admissible in court?”
Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the admissibility of text messages and social media posts.
So, how do courts handle these new communication forms? The answer, like many answers in the law, is “it depends.”
What is admissible evidence?
Before discussing text messages and social media specifically, we must consider the definition of admissible evidence.
Admissible evidence is anything relevant to a case that would make a material fact more or less probable. If evidence is not relevant, the court will not allow it.
Admissible evidence can include the following:
- Witness testimony
- Written documents or statements
- Physical or digital objects
- Scientific or medical results
- Charts or displays for the jury
Even relevant evidence may be subject to exclusion if it is unreliable or could confuse or mislead jurors.
It could also be subject to exclusion if it would unfairly prejudice the jurors against the defendant.
Relevant evidence may also be inadmissible if it is hearsay.
WHAT IS HEARSAY?
Hearsay is a hurdle that the parties need to cross to admit statements that weren’t made in court. The definition of hearsay is a statement not made in court offered as evidence to prove its veracity or truth.
For example, imagine you sent a text message to a friend that said, “Bob vandalized Jane’s car.” If Jane’s attorney tried to admit your text as evidence that Bob did it, this would be hearsay.
The general rule on hearsay is that it is inadmissible. However, there are many exceptions to hearsay which would allow certain statements into evidence.
ARE TEXT MESSAGES HEARSAY?
Given the hearsay rule, are text messages hearsay? Yes, under the definition of the term, text messages and social media posts are hearsay. They are statements made outside of court, which are generally introduced to prove the truth of the text or post.
However, courts have largely allowed texts and social media posts under various exceptions to the hearsay rule. Sometimes, a court will allow them to show a fact other than the content of the message. For example, they may show that the parties had a close relationship.
If you are wondering if your texts or posts are admissible, it’s better to prepare yourself: they likely will be.
WHAT ELSE DOES THE COURT CONSIDER ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE?
For evidence to be admissible, the party introducing it needs to authenticate it. Authentication is the process of proving that something is what the party claims it to be.
For texts and social media, authentication would mean showing that the text or post was actually a text or post from the party who supposedly sent it or posted it.
For online communications, authentication can happen by showing that online communication came from a phone number or account associated with the person who purportedly sent or posted it.
Depending on the court, this may not be an acceptable method of authentication for online communications. After all, other people can access online accounts and cell phones that they do not own.
The court may require additional information for authentication.
Can text messages be used in criminal court?
In Wyoming, the criminal court will generally allow text messages and social media posts. Wyoming has a rule which allows the prosecutor to bring in a text or post by the defendant. (Wyoming Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)).
They will still need to be authenticated, but if a prosecutor wants to introduce them against the defendant, they can.
If a defendant wanted to bring in a text message or social media post that they sent or posted themselves, they would need to get around the hearsay rule.
So, are text messages admissible in court?
Generally, you should anticipate your texts and social media posts being admissible in court.
Although they will need to meet evidentiary standards and get around evidentiary exclusions, courts in Wyoming are likely to allow them in.
No matter what, when sending electronic messages or posting things online, consider that everything you say may come back to you in the future.
If you are in a criminal case and have concerns about text messages or social media posts you may have sent, contact the team at Cowboy Country Criminal Defense.
We can help guide you on how best to handle your case and any potential evidence.