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Text Messages and Cell Phone Video as Evidence in Domestic Violence Cases

Cellphone-evidence-DV-200x300It’s no secret that technology has radically changed the way we live our lives over the past several decades. And while some may lament the loss of personal connection that comes with increased reliance on technology, there’s no doubt that it has improved certain aspects of our lives, including how domestic violence cases are processed. In the past, prosecutors and defense attorneys could only rely on eyewitness testimony to build a case—and sometimes, it was little more than the victim’s word against the accuser. But now, with the advent of instant and permanent communications like text messages, cell phone videos, and social media posts, evidence of the truth is often much easier to ascertain. This can work just as easily as evidence to prove accusations of domestic violence as it can to disprove them. Let’s take a closer look at how some of these technologies can be used as evidence in domestic violence cases.

Cell Phone Video

The power of user-generated phone video was never more proven than in the notorious murder of George Floyd by law enforcement officers in 2020. That murder, captured on video and released virally, kindled months of national protests under the Black Lives Matter movement and contributed greatly to the conviction of those responsible for his death.

On a much smaller scale, cell phone video is becoming a common form of evidence in domestic violence cases. For example, victims or family members can easily capture incriminating footage on their phones when they feel threatened by their intimate partner. It doesn’t even have to be at the point where physical violence is occurring—it can simply be a video or audio recording of verbal threats or harassment that could ultimately contribute to a domestic violence case. (Remember, under California law, a person can be charged with domestic violence without even making physical contact—just by making the victim feel threatened.)

Conversely, cell phone footage can also be used to disprove a victim’s claims. If a domestic violence accuser tries to argue that they were battered, but video footage taken at the time of the attack shows no evidence of this or demonstrates another narrative entirely, it can easily be used as evidence to exonerate the defendant.

Text Messages

The increased use of text messaging for daily communication has also made it more difficult for people to falsify domestic violence allegations or to refute claims of violence. While text messages don’t typically document domestic violence while it’s occurring, they can provide context to support the claims of either the victim or the accused. For example, a victim might provide a text message exchange with their abusive partner as evidence that they were being threatened days before an alleged attack occurred. Additionally, if the text messages are particularly threatening, they themselves could constitute an act of domestic violence as long as the victim was convinced that the defendant would make good on the threats.

By the same token, an accused abuser might use texts from the victim as evidence that refutes their claims of abuse. For example, if the accuser’s text messaging history showed signs of infidelity or conspiracy to frame the defendant, it might demonstrate that the accuser had one or more motives to make false claims of abuse.

Social Media

In some cases, social media posts can also be used as evidence in domestic violence cases. However, social media is a much less formal medium of communication, and the evidence it provides isn’t always reliable. If a domestic violence victim posts emotional status updates or public messages about being abused by their intimate partner, it might be used to support their claims; however, if they instead use social media to promote products on Instagram or seek to become an influencer, any accusations of domestic violence might be less credible because the person might simply be trying to gain attention online.

That being said, social media does provide context, just like text messages do—and the pattern of social media postings by either the accused or accuser could potentially corroborate the story of either. It is often for this reason that attorneys often recommend that both accusers and defendants stay off social media while the case is being processed—in order to prevent them from inadvertently posting things that could hurt their case.

Using Text and Cell Phone Video to Support Your Case 

For accused and accusers alike—and especially in the case of those falsely accused—smartphone technology provides an instant method for documenting the truth. For someone who feels threatened by their spouse, texting their fears to a third party or turning on their cell phone video during a heated argument can provide both context and proof as to whether your significant other broke the law. At the same time, if someone fears they could be wrongfully accused of domestic violence (for example, out of spite or to gain an advantage in custody hearings), a cell phone video of what actually happened between them could be enough to exonerate the accused, have the charges dismissed, and may even result in charges against the accuser instead.

If you are facing domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, a skilled defense attorney will look into the text and video records between you and the accuser to seek out evidence of the truth and help you defend against unfair charges. Our law firm can provide compassionate legal representation to those accused of domestic violence. Call our offices today for a free consultation.

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