Business Records: Posts, Chats, and Texts

Several prior posts on this blog have addressed authenticating and admitting digital evidence like social media posts and text messages (see here, here, here, and here) and we’ve also previously covered the basic rules and requirements for using the business records hearsay exception (see here, here and here), but we’ve not yet explored the questions and issues that arise when those two topics collide.

For example, if the state obtains a complete copy of a suspect’s account records from Facebook, Twitter, or AT&T, including user-generated content such as messages, chats, texts, and posts, can that evidence be admitted as a business record? I recently had an opportunity to talk about digital evidence with prosecutors in several other states, and there are opposing views in different jurisdictions about the correct answer to this question. This post looks at the conflicting interpretations, the North Carolina guidance we have so far, and an interesting alternative approach.

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Authentication and Hearsay Issues with Phone Records

Suppose that the state wants to introduce the defendant’s phone records, in order to show that he called the victim in violation of a DVPO. The state subpoenas the records, and the phone company provides them, along with an affidavit from an appropriate employee stating that they are business records. Armed with the records and … Read more

Can a District Court Judge Sign an Order for Phone Records?

Last year, I published a paper about law enforcement access to phone records and other information about electronic communications. In the paper, I explained that “[a]mong North Carolina judges, only superior court judges may issue court orders for phone records.” As luck would have it, a few weeks later, Congress amended some of the relevant … Read more