Many times I have sat in my office with a new client, listening to them earnestly explain how they have been fighting with their (spouse, business partner, neighbor, you name it). Not infrequently, at some point in this story, the client will tell me that the opposing party has even admitted to it! The client will often gesture down to their cell phone. When this happens I stop them immediately.
“In what way did they admit it?” I ask. “Verbally? Were there witnesses?” The answer comes: “No, no witnesses. But I have it all right here. It’s all on text message!”
I look this person in the eye, and I tell them that when they get home, to research applications that will convert text message conversations to a .pdf file. I tell them to convert all of their messages to .pdf, and to email them to me.
Why? To preserve them. This advice also applies to preserving emails, and to preserving peer-to-peer financial records such as Venmo, Cash App, and PayPal. In fact, I recommend using a bank-to-bank transfer app instead, that allows the user to document in the form of a traditional-looking bank statement.
Text messages are onerous to document and review. Photos of text messages are grainy and blurry. Screenshots of text messages are only slightly better. The content “chain” must be documented adequately, without omitting pieces of the conversation. A properly converted .pdf file will show the substance of the statement, the date, the time, the purported sender, and will document the conversation with as little ‘white space’ as possible on the paper. This makes it easier for the reader to comprehend and makes your argument that much more persuasive.
Furthermore, text messages can be easily erased. It makes me queasy to think that important evidence is being stored on a cell phone, carried out and about where it could easily be lost, stolen, or inadvertently deleted. Some cell phone providers do not maintain the records you think that they do. Do not trust that your provider can give you text message records upon demand.
If you think you have important evidence on your phone, do not wait to document it smartly and reliably. It takes law offices a lot of time and money to process records. Your bank account will thank you if you are not billed for the time it takes your attorney to sort through these messy records.
. . .then we can get on to the legal issue of admissibility.This article is for general information only and is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice or solicitation of a prospective client. It should not be relied on for legal advice in any particular factual circumstance.