September 26th, 2022

How Can My Cell Phone Be Used in a Lawsuit?

Like most things in the legal profession, the answer to how your cell phone can be used in a lawsuit depends on the facts. Obviously, most of us have access to a high-powered computer that fits in our pockets. Our cell phone allows us to record audio and video, search the Internet, manage financial and other accounts, and much more. In short, your cell phone can potentially be a treasure trove of evidence in both civil and criminal lawsuits. However, that “evidence” may or may not be admissible in court, depending on the circumstances.

Recorded Conversations

In a previous blogThinking of Pressing Record? Make Sure You Don’t Commit a Felony! – We discussed Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act and the Commonwealth’s Two-Party-Consent Rule. Basically, it is illegal to record conversations with other parties without their consent. These illegal recordings are generally not admissible as evidence in a lawsuit. On the other hand, where there is proven two-party consent and no other wiretap laws have been violated, there is a high likelihood that this would be acceptable evidence to the court.

There are exceptions and nuances to these laws, so speak to an attorney before recording conversations or if you feel you have been illegally recorded.

 Video Evidence

Every day, we see news stories of crimes, law enforcement situations, and accidents. With these stories, there are often witnesses who record the events on their cell phones. We also see these videos showing up in the resulting court cases. But there is no guarantee that cell phone video will be admitted as evidence in a lawsuit.

For example, a violation of the Two Party-Consent Rule may lead to the removal of the video’s audio. Or entire portions of the video may be ruled inadmissible. But, generally speaking, cell phone video evidence is admissible if:

  • It is relevant to the case.
  • It is real and proven to be authentic.
  • The video is of good quality so the evidence can be clearly seen.

Cell Phone Search Results

Both the United States Constitution (Fourth Amendment) and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Article I, Section 8) protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. These protections include cell phone search records and other data. The law requires “probable cause” before the search or seizure of a cell phone. Therefore, without probable cause and a legally executed search warrant, cell phone search records would most likely be inadmissible in court. On the flip side, cell phone search results would likely be admissible without violations of the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 8.

The court may also rule on the admissibility of the actual cell phone search results depending on other factors. For example, were the searches relevant to the case or when did they happen?

Can Cell Phone Records be subpoenaed in a Lawsuit?

The short answer is yes cell phone records can be subpoenaed in a lawsuit. However, the cell phone company will probably require that the subpoena be very specific and not overly broad. Plus, cell phone companies have different policies on how they react to subpoenas. Some may honor all subpoenas, and some may fight all subpoenas. And, regardless of the phone company cooperating with a subpoena, the data being sought may have been deleted and unobtainable. Consequently, if cell phone records are important for a lawsuit, the subpoena should be served quickly – before necessary records disappear.

As you can see, cell phone records can be used in lawsuits under the right circumstances.  As these laws can be confusing, please contact Veronica Hogan if you have any questions.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.