Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Getting Text Messages Into Evidence

We text every day- many times without thinking about the fact that these hasty words are perfectly preserved and readily available to be used against you in your divorce or family law case.  

Galveston family lawyers and other practitioners are eating these bits of evidence up like candy in domestic cases.  But there are still some issues about getting evidence of a text before the court that the attorney must consider.  Like all pieces of evidence, attorneys must show that the evidence is an actual document (or an "authentic" true copy) that wasn't fabricated.  Attorneys must also show that the text should be allowed despite the general rule that hearsay (an out of court statement offered as the truth) is not allowed because it is so unreliable.

In the case of Butler v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set out the following predicate:

Q. What is [Appellant’s] phone number?
A. 361-215-3899.
Q. Does that number appear on all the pages of the exhibit?
A. Yes.
Q. How do you know that that is [Appellant’s] telephone number?
A. Because that’s where he called me from and that’s what’s on the
same exhibit in front of me.
Q. You’ve read the text messages in the exhibit?
A. Yes.
Q. Who sen[t] you those text messages?
A. He did.
Q. How do you know that it was him?
A. Because he was the one texting me back and forth and he had
even called in between the conversations talking mess.

The Court of Criminal Appeals said that it was not enough for a lawyer to prove that a text was sent to a certain person's phone.  The lawyer must also prove that it was received by the certain person (NOT just the person's phone- because phones can be stolen).  So an attorney must also show that based on the response to the text or other context clues that the phone receiving the information was under the control of the other party.