Text Messages and the Law

The text message has become a frequent method of communication. It is quick, easy, and you can do it from almost anywhere, whether you’re on the phone, at the movies, or in the middle of a conversation. In the legal world, text messages can be extremely useful. Two individuals who have conflicting statements about what was said in a phone call, are stuck in a he said/she said type of situation, but with text messaging, we have a written record of what was actually said. While there can still be some confusion about how he messages could be interrupted, often times this allows us to clear up issues of what was really said.

In a family law case, text messages can be a helpful form of communication when the two parties are contentious. Text messaging allows the two parents to communicate, without having to speak to one another, and it also provides a written account of what was said, offered or agreed to. If you are having problems in your family law case, text messages are a great way to keep a record of what was said and are evidence that can be submitted to the court.

In a criminal case text messages often play a large role as well. Text messages can demonstrate agreements, help convey a tone or relationship, refute accusations, and much more. However, text messages also can have negative consequences as well. Some phones have text messages that detail ongoing criminal activity, such as threats, or drug transactions. These types of texts messages are incriminating and can be admitted as evidence against you in court.


With all of the stories about the NSA data collections it is understandable that you may assume that a cell phone company would have access to all of your text messages, and in fact they do, however not in the way most people assume. Cellphone carriers keep logs of text messages, in a similar way that they do phone calls, they have the number that was texted, the time and it might even have the size of the text message. The text message logs are often available for years. What is not available is the actual content of the message itself. Most carriers do not keep any stored data of what sent text message content is, while some carriers will keep this information for up to a week before it is deleted. This means that in most cases once a text message has been deleted from your phone, unless it is stored on the recipients phone, the content is gone for good.

Depending on your situation, this can be either a good or a bad thing. If a text message would help provide documentation for your situation, whether it be criminal or family, it is advisable to keep those messages on your phone for the duration of your case. It can also be helpful to take pictures of those messages and e-mail to yourself, in the event that your phone becomes lost or is stolen. In some criminal situations, incriminating text messages that are deleted, provide you with a measure of safety, especially if the person who received those texts messages has also deleted them.