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Text and Email messages as evidence in Divorce cases.

In April 2015, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided Smith v. Smith, 2015 (Ala. Civ. App. April 3, 2015).  It was a case where the mother's text messages were admitted as evidence of her trying to buy prescription drugs illegally from a non-party.  Those text messages were verified by the non-party testifying that she indeed received the text messages from the mother.  The court noted that they decided whether proper authentication of emails would make them admissible in court.  Culp v. State, was the case they previously decided the issue of e-mails.  Simply the Court noted that circumstantial evidence such as emails or text messages only had to be established to be what they were claimed to be and that was sufficient.  Such circumstantial evidence could include the following:

  1. Email Addresses;
  2. cell phone number;
  3. screen names connected with the message;
  4. content of the messages;
  5. style of writing; or
  6. metadata

The Court went on to say that the evidence needs to establish only a reasonable probability that the document is what it is claimed to be.  After that is done, then the messages are admitted and it goes to the weight.  In fact, business records may show that a particular message came from a particular computer or phone and that would be reasonable enough to show that the person had access to the computer or phone to make the messages admissible.  Other forms of authentication can be by distinctive characteristics like appearance, contents, and ways that the person talks normally. 

In this case, because the receiver/sender of the messages testified to their authenticity, they were admitted.  The Court can judge a person's creditability at the time the person testifies.  If the Court did not think the testimony was truthful, they could disregard the admitted text messages since the judge gets to determine how much weight to give each item admitted into court.  More information can be found on the web


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