Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 37, No. 3 June 2016

Recovering and Viewing Text Messages

By Steve Polak

While some may hold text messages at a lower value, this form of communication can provide convenience and a more permanent form of messaging. In addition to allowing cell phone holders to send a quick message rather than having to make a longer call, text messages can also be used in the courtroom. More than just a virtual message, a text can offer evidence and insight into a case. While not all phone calls are recorded, and even recorded calls can be deleted, a text is more permanent and can offer inerasable facts.

Text messages cannot be viewed by just anyone, but with a warrant they can be obtained. Through the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) cell phone providers are forbidden from printing out messages, even when it is for the individual’s personal account. Through online access, the amount of text messages and the numbers they were sent and received from can be viewed. What will not be found is the actual content of the message.

For those that are looking to gain the printout of their text messages for a legal matter, it will be necessary to call local law enforcement to find out how this can be done. Based on the 2006 Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act, local law enforcement may be unable to help and the FBI may need to be sought instead. Contacting the FBI is a legal way to obtain records, but it should be only in more serious circumstances. They have the ability and the authority to use digital forensics to acquire a message from any type of electronically handheld device, including messages that have been deleted.

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