If the police charge you with a crime in Pennsylvania, social media, text messages, and cell phone evidence can be a powerful tool in proving your innocence. In the following blog post, I explain how I use various forms of cellphone evidence to win your criminal case.
Why is Text Message Evidence Important in a Criminal Case?
Many people communicate by texting apps exclusively today. As a criminal defense lawyer, I understand that text communications are often critical evidence establishing the innocence of persons charged with many crimes. The most widely used texting apps include WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Signal, and Facebook Messenger.
How Can Cellphone Video Evidence Help my Case?
Almost everyone possesses an Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy phone, Google Pixel phone, or another type of smartphone. Today, cellphones capture video recordings of virtually any kind of event, from family events to all forms of notorious public incidents.
As a result, someone will use their cellphone camera to film most physical altercations, disturbances, and other types of criminal activity. Cellphone video evidence can be critical in establishing a legal defense to a crime. Examples include proving you were acting in self-defense in an assault case or showing that you were at a different location than the crime scene in an alibi defense case.
Proving Consent in a Pennsylvania Sexual Crime Case
The Pennsylvania Crimes Code contains many sex crimes. The most common sexual offenses the police will charge include rape, sexual assault, and indecent assault. In many cases, there is no physical evidence, and the prosecutor’s evidence relies entirely on the accuser’s statements.
Consent is a legal defense to most sexual offenses in Pennsylvania in cases where the accuser is an adult. Most juries will not convict the accused if the accused presents evidence of text messages or voicemail messages between the accused and the accuser demonstrating that the sexual encounter was consensual.
In many cases, I can bolster a consent defense to a sex crime by presenting photos or video evidence proving that both parties consented to the sexual activity.
How Digital Evidence Can Establish an Alibi Defense
In Pennsylvania, an alibi defense places you at a different location from the scene of the crime such that it would have been impossible for you to have committed the crime. In Pennsylvania, alibi evidence alone or combined with other evidence is sufficient to establish reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. A criminal jury must render a verdict of not guilty if they believe that the accused has established an alibi for the crime.
Different forms of digital evidence can be highly persuasive in proving an alibi defense to a crime.
What are Different Types of Alibi Evidence?
Alibi evidence can come in many different forms. The common feature of all alibi evidence is that it establishes that you were not at the location of the crime and therefore could not have committed the criminal act. Examples of alibi evidence include:
- Testimony from a person who was with you at a different location at the time of the crime
- Cell phone video showing you at an alternate location at the time the crime occurred
- Surveillance video that places you at a different site than the place of the crime
- Cell phone records that establish that you were not present at the crime scene when the crime occurred
An alibi defense, if believed, is a complete defense to a crime in Pennsylvania.
How the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Show Helped Free an Innocent Man
An unknown assailant murdered Martha Puebla outside her home in May 2003. During the police investigation, a witness described the murderer to the police.
The Police Investigation
The police believed the description matched the identity of Juan Catalan. Martha Puebla had recently testified in a double murder case involving Juan Catalan’s brother. The police suspected that Juan Catalan had killed Martha Puebla in retaliation for her testimony in his brother’s trial.
As a result, the police arrested Juan Catalan for the murder of Martha Puebla. Juan Catalan denied involvement in the murder but could not remember his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Unfortunately, he sat in jail for months without being able to make bail.
Investigating and Establishing the Alibi Defense
Fortunately, Juan Catalan’s girlfriend remembered that Juan was at a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game with his daughter and other members of his family on the night of the murder.
Juan Catalan’s lawyer was able to provide the police with tickets from the night of the game. The district attorney insisted on additional evidence to establish Mr. Catalan’s alibi. Mr. Catalan’s lawyer discovered that the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was filming part of an episode on the night in question.
The District Attorney Dismisses the Charges
Mr. Catalan’s attorney reviewed the film from the show and discovered clear video footage showing John Catalan and his daughter walking to their seats in the stadium from the concession stand. John Catalan corroborated the videotape evidence with cell phone records establishing that he was at the stadium on the night of the homicide. In light of the video and cell phone records evidence, the district attorney dismissed all charges against John Catalan and freed him from prison.
Preserve Text Messages to Build a Strong Defense
The primary ways to secure text messages as evidence include:
- Use the screen capture feature on your iPhone, Samsung, or Google device and email the texts to yourself
- Email or forward the text messages to a different device such as a laptop computer
- Maintain two copies of the communications for yourself and your lawyer
- Make sure you are preserving the entire conversation, including your responses to the text messages
How Are Text Messages Authenticated in Court in Pennsylvania?
You can use text messages as part of your defense if you can show that the messages were sent or written by the accused by presenting the following evidence:
- Direct evidence such as the testimony of a person who witnessed the accuser writing the text messages
- The accuser admits that they wrote the texts
- Identifying characteristics of the message that proves that the accuser wrote it
- Proof of ownership, possession, control, or access to a device or account at the relevant time when corroborated by evidence indicating that the accuser authored the message
Get Immediate Help from a Bucks County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Are you facing sexual assault, simple assault, or aggravated assault charges? Cellphone evidence may provide you with a powerful defense. I offer aggressive criminal defense to persons charged with crimes in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the neighboring Pennsylvania Counties.