Court Rules Text Message May Be Used as Criminal Evidence

Court Rules Text Message May Be Used as Criminal Evidence

( – Cell phones and electronic communication are commonplace these days. People send text messages every day without giving much thought to what happens after they’re sent. A new federal court ruling proves this laid-back attitude is likely a mistake.

On June 1, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that sent text messages have no presumption of privacy. As a result, law enforcement may seize them and use them against a person in court at any time.

The ruling overturns results from a second case within the lower court. There, it ruled in favor of Jorge Delgado-Rivera, who was seeking to prevent the search of text messages under Fourth Amendment protections. The plaintiff specifically wanted to block the use of personally sent text messages an officer found on someone else’s cell phone, which tied him to an alleged narcotics ring. The same information eventually led to his arrest on drug trafficking charges.

Delgado-Rivera’s argument was simple: encryption of text messaging offers an expectation of privacy. Justices unanimously disagreed with this position, ruling that there is no expectation of privacy in sent messages as there are other forms of written communication. Once sent, they become a record of communication and are no longer under the sender’s control.

The message from this ruling is that putting something in writing and sending it results in a loss of privacy. If a person wants to keep something private, they shouldn’t put it in a text.

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