In this case, an Ocean County judge ruled that litigants in domestic violence cases who want to introduce evidence contained on their cell phones, such as texts, emails, social media messages, or audio/visual evidence, must first provide such evidence to the court and the adversary in tangible form, such as on a printout or a CD. E C v R H., Ocean County, Chancery Division, Family Part, Docket No. FV-15-194-16 (August 11, 2015).

Plaintiff and defendant were former dating partners. Plaintiff claimed that defendant harassed her by sending many unwanted text and social media messages, along with voice mails, filled with profanities and derogatory comments. She filed a complaint for a restraining order to end the harassing communications.

At the hearing for the restraining order, plaintiff sought to introduce evidence of the alleged harassing communications stored her cell phone. As a result, the Court tackled the question of how to appropriately accept evidence from plaintiff’s cell phone into the court record.

The Court first recognized that harassment, the most frequently reported predicate offense for a finding of domestic violence under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, is largely a communication-based offense. As a result, cell phone evidence such as text messages and e-mails often go to the heart of a plaintiff’s claim of harassment, and/or a defendant’s defenses to same. Thus, such evidence is also highly relevant and should be considered by a court.

The Court ruled that parties in domestic violence cases should be given advance notice that cellphone evidence will be introduced at trial.

Accordingly, all electronic cell phone evidence such as emails, text messages, social media messages and photos that a litigant wants to introduce into evidence must be printed on paper, and submitted in triplicate. Audio recordings should be reproduced on CD or cassette, and video recordings should be produced on DVD.

While recognizing that the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act calls for final hearings to be held within 10 days of the filing of a complaint, the Court ruled that an adjournment for the purpose of producing hard copies of evidence stored on a litigant’s cell phone is appropriate even if it extends the proceedings beyond 10 days.

The Court noted that hard copy forms of electronically stored evidence provide the other party with a reasonable opportunity to review the evidence before trial.

The case is annexed here – E C v R H

To learn more about the Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli, visit: https://vanarellilaw.com/about-the-firm/