If you find yourself facing charges, there's a chance that your text messages could make their way into court as evidence. These days, many people send far more messages than they make actual phone calls. And it's not just texting. They send messages through social media apps like Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
For you, the downside is that this creates a fairly clear "paper" trail. Something said in person may be incredibly debatable. But something that you wrote out in a text message carries a lot more weight with the judge and jury. It can completely define the outcome of the case.
But what if it shouldn't? How much can you really trust those text messages as evidence?
After all, forensics experts warn that text messages can be faked and manipulated. Someone who knows their way around computers can change the text or mock up a completely fake message. To the untrained eye -- which, let's face it, is everyone on the jury -- it probably looks legit. But it's not.
If the text messages get presented as screenshots and photos, there's an even greater risk. It does not take much computer know-how at all to manipulate a digital file with photo editing software. Amateur photographers do it all the time. You may have minor experience with this yourself.
That's problematic because taking screenshots is one of the best ways for people to save text messages. They don't want them to get erased accidentally before they need to use them. Again, screenshots look legitimate and they look authentic. But someone with even minor experience can drastically alter the text in just a few minutes.
What about a real paper trail?
Another option people use is to actually print off the content of the messages. This gives them a hard copy that can't get deleted. They don't have to worry about a corrupt hard drive or a dead battery. Is this more trustworthy?
Unfortunately, it's not. All of that manipulation can still happen prior to the printing of the hard copy. Being able to hold the paper in hand may make the members of the jury feel like it's more authentic, but it could still be a fake. It just means that someone took the extra step of printing off the fake after the fact.
Your defense options
In all sorts of cases, from divorce to white collar crime, digital evidence is growing more common. That's to be expected, with how much we use smartphones. However, that doesn't mean it's always trustworthy. You must know what defense options you have and how to stand up for your rights against "evidence" that does not accurately represent what you said.