One of the incredible innovations made possible by modern smartphones is the ability to communicate with the written word more effortlessly than ever before. Text messaging has become synonymous with the modern way of life, and more than 8 trillion text messages are sent each year as a result.
From a legal perspective, however, text messages are not always a good thing. More precisely, a defendant’s text message history can be cause for worry if criminal activity was discussed over texts. If you have been charged with a crime and wonder whether your text messages can be used against you in court, here is what the United States Supreme Court and Arizona law has to say on the matter.
Text Messages As Evidence in Court
To fully discuss the matter of whether Arizona courts may use text messages against a defendant, it is necessary to look first to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in the case of Riley v. California that a warrant is needed to search or seize a person’s cell phone, otherwise an unlawful seizure violates the 4th Amendment.
Based on this legal reasoning, any seizure of your cell phone without a warrant ensures that the text messages could not be used against you in a court of law. Arizona courts have consistently ruled in harmony with this Supreme Court case, which has limited cell phone searches to a criminal suspect’s phone when a warrant is obtained. The key takeaway of this analysis is that law enforcement needs probable cause in order to search and seize the cell phone of a suspect.
Now, let’s assume that law enforcement did have a warrant and seized the cell phone. In this case, can text messages be used as evidence in court? As a general rule, yes. Once law enforcement has obtained lawful access to the cellular device, law enforcement or an independent investigator will likely have access to text messages during the course of a lawful investigation.
This is a frequent issue for drug dealers and others who send text messages that can serve as evidence that they conspired to commit a crime. Putting criminal activity in writing via text message makes it more difficult for an Arizona criminal defense lawyer to get a defendant’s charges dismissed. This is partly because text messages can contain a treasure trove of data, and if a lawful warrant was obtained, cell phone carriers may choose to provide law enforcement with:
- Text message history
- The dates and times of all texts
- Phone numbers that sent and/or received any incriminating messages
If you are charged with a felony offense in Arizona, this comes with the consequence of at least one year of jail time if convicted. And, even a Class 1 misdemeanor could lead to a six month jail sentence upon conviction. Simply put, the stakes are high if you have been charged with a criminal offense and text messages exist that could cast your case in an unfavorable light.
Worried about your social media posts being used against you in court? Learn more here.
If you are charged with any of these offenses or are accused of drug crime that involves electronic communications, an Arizona criminal defense lawyer will be your greatest ally. A strong legal defense against your charges could help prove there was not a lawful search warrant to search/seize your cell phone and that your constitutional rights were violated.
The criminal defense attorneys at Tyler Allen Law Firm know how to handle cases just like yours. If you’re looking for experienced representation contact us today for a free consultation.