DO.NOT.DELETE.YOUR.TEXT.MESSAGES.OR.PHOTOS and backup your data to the cloud.
Too often someone will call and tell me that they are being accused of a terrible crime and that they had evidence that would prove the allegation is false, but they have deleted that evidence off their phones.
Every time I hear this, my heart sinks for the new client and I want to throw my own phone through a window out of frustration.
Why in the world are people deleting messages, photos, or not backing up their data to a computer or cloud. It is 2022, data is cheap, storage capacities are large, and every phone has the ability to automatically back itself up. I understand that when getting out of a terrible relationship, a person can find the idea of deleting their ex from their digital life tempting. Whether it is in effort to not think about your ex anymore, or not to drunk dial them while you are lonely, there are other ways to prevent that, like blocking the contact on your phone or erasing their first and last name of the contact card in your phone.
I do not expect anyone to live like a paranoid defense attorney and keep all messages and digital data “just in case.” But too often I see the same situation over and over: a client deletes all messages from their ex as soon as they hear they are being accused of something. This never seems to be because they have a guilty conscience, but because they feel betrayed that their ex would make such a terrible allegation against them; they feel shame over being accused in the first place; or they guilt themselves for even being in the situation despite being totally innocent. Ultimately, in an effort to cleanse themselves of this shame, they often purge all existence of their ex from their phones. DO NOT DO THIS. If you do, you are hurting yourself, your future, your legal defense, and making things worse for yourself.
Let me say this: even if there was something in those messages that make you look terrible, what does deleting them from your phone do for you? Nothing, because you cannot delete those messages from your ex’s phone. Texts/DM’s are always a two-way street. You send the message, and it is on your phone and your ex’s phone. If your message is truly terrible, then you better believe the ex will use it against you and give a copy of it to investigators.
People who make allegations, alleged victims, do not have to give over their entire phone to investigators. Often they cherry-pick messages or screenshots that are given to the investigator’s, the investigators never see the messages that make the alleged victim look bad, and the alleged victim does not have to show them. Therefore, when you delete the whole message thread, you all but guarantee that all the other messages that provide context, or show you are not guilty will also be erased.
On your phone, go to settings, find your message app, and turn on “keep forever.”
Turn ON your cloud backups
Make sure your photos and messages are backed up on the cloud (too often client’s break phones or get new a phone. If the data is not on the cloud, then you have lost everything).
The second you get word of an allegation against you, screenshot everything.
- Scroll up to the oldest messages between you two
- Take a screenshot – screenshot #1
- The text bubble at the bottom of the screen on Screenshot #1 should be at the top of Screenshot #2. This allows any future reader to understand the order of the messages later. Repeat this step until you have taken screenshots of your entire conversation.
- Then email all screenshots to yourself. This way, if you lose your phone and don’t have the cloud, you know the screenshots are safely located in your email.
- DO NOT USE your government email. That is monitored by the government. Use your own private/personal email.
- Now if you lose your phone, break it, get a new one, or investigators take it, you have access to the screenshots to give to your lawyer to help you case later.
Do these steps and your future-self and your lawyer will thank you.
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