Emojis in Court

Face Screaming in Fear on Apple iOS 12.1Love them or hate them, it looks like “emojis” are here to stay. As of this writing, more than 3,000 emojis have been officially recognized, standardized, and named by the Unicode Consortium (a group that cares very deeply about emojis, among other things) and they have been adopted for widespread use on cell phones, tablets, email clients, and social media platforms.

Emojis now exist as a way to succinctly express everything from the ordinary and familiar ( Download Smiling Face Emoji Icon | Emoji Island smiling face; Thumbs Up: Light Skin Tone Emoji (U+1F44D, U+1F3FB) thumbs-up) to the surprisingly specific (Mountain Cableway on Apple iOS 12.1 mountain cableway; Moon Viewing Ceremony on Apple iOS 12.1 moon viewing ceremony) to the routinely misunderstood (Download Persevering Face Emoji | Emoji Island not “angry” but rather “persevering face;” Dizzy on Apple iOS 12.1 not “shooting star” but rather “dizzy”), to the criminally repurposed (Snowflake on Apple iOS 12.1 snowflake to mean cocaine; Download Rocket Emoji Icon | Emoji Island rocket to mean high drug potency).

The explosive growth of this alternative form of communication is raising some interesting questions for criminal attorneys and the court system as a whole. Should emojis be considered “statements,” on equal footing with written or spoken words? If they’re not statements, then what are they? Who decides what is meant by the use of a particular emoji? Do they have to be published to the jury and included in the record as images, or can they be summarized and described by words? What should practitioners do to make sure that emojis are accurately reflected in transcripts, court orders, and appellate opinions, since many court systems are text-based and do not allow for the inclusion of images?

Let’s Speaking Head on Apple iOS 12.1 about it.

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