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I've just spoken with a lawyer who said we can make a transcript of a text message and put their "seal of approval" to verify that I received it and it wasn't tampered with.

However they are unable to verify that the message originated from a specific person. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem comes to my mind – e.g., it could have just been a cat walking on the keyboard.)

I was wondering if someone could tell me what steps are required to actually make it admissible evidence in a court of law?


Related to Can whatsapp messages be an evidence? The only difference is that I don't ask if but how.


UPDATE: I've received an answer and I need to clarify. The intention of this question is "how to secure evidence", there are couple of reasons for that:

  • access to device might be gone
  • I might be a subject of extortion
  • there might be 1000s of other messages (there is no easy way of bookmarking conversations)

Their intention is take a snapshot, make it legal, authenticate with lawyer, notary, judge, encrypt and put on blockchain... I think that could be secure and provable?

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You seem to have the wrong end of the stick here: anything is admissible as evidence, excluding evidence is subject to very specific legal principles. For example, evidence seized by police unlawfully is inadmissible or in a civil case, without prejudice communications made in a bona fide effort to resolve the dispute.

So your text message is admissible and there is no reason that the court would not accept that the transcript is true and accurate. I can also see no reason why the other side would try to dispute the content of the text and the phone number from which it was sent - these are things that are easily demonstrated.

If they claim that, even though it was their phone, they did not send the message then they will provide some evidence of this. Similarly, if they wanted to say that the plain text of the message is not what they meant (e.g. it was a joke or a mistype) then they would provide some evidence of that position.

The trier of fact would consider the evidence each party put forward in support of their position on the message and then grant it the appropriate weight when determining the case.

  • What if in the moment of hearing I don't have the device? What if I'm subject to extortion and I'm forced to delete media? The intention is to secure evidence in the moment it appeared. Take screenshot, do transcript, go to a lawyer (notary), encrypt, put on BlockChain, etc... But how - any suggestion or ideas? – Michael Legal Fiction Freeman Oct 20 '16 at 9:58
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There are several of layers involved.

One is an evidence issue called "authentication" which in the federal rules of evidence is governed by Rules 901, 902 and 903. Many states have the same numbering system, but others insist on being different.

It is probably not possible to make this kind of material "self-authenticating" (i.e. allowed to be introduced into evidence at a trial without live testimony concerning its authenticity) but it probably is possible to document the origin of the material and have a credible person (usually you, a law firm staff person or an IT consultant) testify as a witness to the fact that the evidence presented to a court is authentic. Prior to trial this is usually done with an affidavit of someone with personal knowledge of the facts. At trial, usually an authentication witness would be called to testify if this issue isn't stipulated to (stipulations as to authenticity are routine unless there is a bona fide dispute over authenticity.)

Secondly, from a practical level, there are computer applications that make it possible to download text messages and similar electronic materials to a hard drive in its original format.

Third, there is the issue of proving that the authentic text messages actually come from the person you claim that they do. This is important for two reasons.

One reason is that a text message from your opponent in a lawsuit doesn't count as hearsay, but a text message from someone else is hearsay and not admissible unless it is within an exception to the hearsay rule. So proving who it came from my be necessary to get it into evidence once it is proved to be authentic.

The other reason is that you need to prove who it comes from, because the court needs to believe that in order for you to win on the point you want to prove with the messages.

The question of who it comes from is usually proved with evidence such as your testimony about the owner of the sender's account, testimony of the alleged sender, telephone company records, and evidence of how the timing of messages ties into the timing of other things that you can prove happened with other evidence.

You would also have to show that the evidence is relevant; in no fault divorce states, lots of evidence of misconduct by a spouse is not relevant and therefore not admissible.

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