- James Wronko
Text Messages And Criminal Charges
I just finished a trial in which my client was convicted of aggravated sexual assault for having vaginal intercourse with a minor girl. The conviction was primarily based on 1,600 text messages that were shown to a jury by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office. These indicated that my client was guilty. He had a Samsung cell phone and Verizon Wireless was his carrier, and as explained below these records are easily obtained by law enforcement.
It seems that text messages, sexting, naked pictures, and other electronic communications, including emails and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope have become prominent in criminal cases, whether they involve child porn, robbery, arson or a divorce matter involving a cheating spouse, lover or significant other.
If your cell phone provider is Verizon Wireless for example, their security department will happily preserve text messages and provide them to law enforcement upon receipt of a search or data warrant.
As an attorney my legal advice is to make sure my clients are aware of the ease in which prosecuting authorities can obtain information from the cell phone company who will provide these messages to a prosecutor or district attorney. Your lawyer will have to deal with this damaging evidence at trial.
For instance Verizon Wireless will preserve records of all text messages including their content, at the request of the police and subsequently turn them over upon receipt of the of appropriate legal authority.
Verizon maintains these records for billing purposes, therefore, not only can Verizon provide exact dates and times of when text messages are sent and received, but they contain the exact wording. These are kept for over a month.
If your cell phone provider is Sprint, T-Mobile, Metro PCS, Cricket Wireless, Boost or AT&T, you can contact their security department and ask how long they maintain copies of text messages.
If any cell phone used by either party is not an Apple iPhone, the texting information will be available and preserved by the cell phone provider.
However, text messages sent between iPhones, are transmitted as an iMessage, they go through Apple who does not maintain copies of the text messages.
Law enforcement can periodically check all social media as needed and can subpoena or obtain a warrant for subscriber and account information. In addition, deleted information is not always deleted and can be extracted by the police and used in court.
Email providers such as Yahoo, gmail, outlook, hotmail, aol and Comcast among others also make their subscriber information available to police and other law enforcement agencies.
Finally, the police, either with or without the assistance of the FBI, can also track your location by use of GPS and other locator methods. Every time you phone text, make or receive a call or have any data transmissions, which occurs when your smart phone contacts the internet i.e., Pandora radio, Google or Map Quest etc. with cell towers, you have revealed your location to the government.