Texting evidence used in trial

You've been keeping a diary since you were a child. You write down all of the little things you're thinking about, things that are for you alone. You never expect anyone else to turn those pages. If you're accused of a crime and arrested, though, could your diary be used as evidence against you?

Senator Bob Packwood

The precedent does exist. In 1994, Senator Bob Packwood was taken to court and an attempt was made to sieze and use the diary he'd been keeping since the late 1960s. A subpoena was given out, giving the court access to the 8,000+ pages.

The senator tried to fight it. He claimed that the Fifth Amendment, which gives people the right to remain silent and therefore not incriminate themselves, protected him. The case ended up in front of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They ruled that the senator was wrong; personal papers didn't get the same protections, and they could be used as evidence even if he couldn't be forced to testify against himself. Since he'd written it down, the papers could still be used. The senator eventually stopped trying to fight the court.

Boyd v. United States

One case that is commonly cited when this question comes up is Boyd v. United States, which said that people couldn't be forced to produce documents. While this is similar, it only refers to the forced production -- essentially creating evidence against themselves -- and not to things that were voluntarily produced at an earlier date. This is a very important distinction.

Illegal Evidence

When you're facing charges, it's crucial to know what constitutional rights you really have, what evidence is legal and what is not, and how the things you've written down may be used against you. In the modern day, that could be extended from diaries to blogs and other electronic records. If you think evidence is being used in violation of your rights, you must know what you need to do to ask for it to be removed from the case.