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Can litigants produce transcripts of their text messages?

Customer Question
I have seen many litigants...

I have seen many litigants produce transcripts of their text messages to prove their cases on TV. I have been told by my mobile provider, which is AT&T, that they do not save these electronic messages and that there is no way to get them. I really find that hard to believe.

Can you shed some light on how these litigants can produce these documents, please? I need mine for a court case and don't have a lot of time to produce them.

Submitted: 6 years ago.Category: Cell Phones
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Answered in 4 minutes by:
3/7/2012
Cell Phone Technician: Rod, Electronics Engineer replied 6 years ago
Rod
Rod, Electronics Engineer
Category: Cell Phones
Satisfied Customers: 4,501
Experience: Previous employment with GTE (now Verizon) worked with mobile phone systems
Verified

Most wireless carriers do not retain text messages - they are only stored on the phones. Some phones use the internal memory - others you can have the option to store text messages on a SD card (if the phone has that capability).

If the person deleted the message - then it is gone, as the memory space is reused for new data. The only way to produce them, is if they are still on the phone. Sorry, but we have many people asking about retrieving old text messages they deleted, and they are just not there - if they deleted them.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

The phone that they are/were on is still in my possession, but after 7 years (it was a "throwaway" phone with a SIM card that I purchased because I had lost my new, expensive phone) I guess eventually the battery just wouldn't accept a charge any longer, and the Radio Shack manager that sold me the newest AT&T phone was able to get my entire phone list from the phone by taking out the SIM card and putting it in his pwn phone and transferring it somehow.

Can this be done with my text messages? The ones that I need now were "saved" with a little button that said to save them and not erase them. In your experience, do you think that anyone could retrieve the needed text messages from the old phone for me? Also, most; if not all of the "Judge" shows on TV, as well as other "Cop" and NCIS programming show people getting those "old" text messages in transcript form long after they've been sent. I understand that they can be retrieved by court order...why then am I being told that they can't be? Either they can be, or they can't....I don't want the "easy" answer, I want the correct answer.... could you do a little research please?

Cell Phone Technician: Rod, Electronics Engineer replied 6 years ago

Most likely the text messages were stored on the internal memory - not the SIM card - but what I cannot understand - if it would not take a charge - did they not have a new battery for it - so it would charge?

There is not an easy way to read the memory, that is internal - it will take a laboratory environment to "attach" to the internal memory and see if the files can be recovered. I do not know of a easy way for this, only a forensic lab can try - and they will tell you they cannot guarantee results.

Was this a GSM phone (AT&T)? If so, it is most likely the text messages were stored on the internal memory - as the SIM card holds the phone information/contacts etc, but the internal memory stores the text messages.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

My "Expert" gave a pat answer, not an informed answer. There are ways to get these transcripts, if even through a court order. I already had an answer like his from my mobile provider, which I know is not the correct answer. I expected to PAY for an answer that was both correct and informed, neither of which did I see in my original answer. I sent a reply back to my "Expert", but have not received either an acknowledgement of the reply or an informed answer to the original question. I don't need a popular opinion, I can get those on the street for free. I expected to receive an informed, correct answer, and absent that, I will need a refund, or a REAL expert from AT&T that KNOWS exactly how to accomplish what is needed. IT CAN BE DONE!

Cell Phone Technician: Eric, Android Expert replied 6 years ago
Eric
Eric, Android Expert
Category: Cell Phones
Satisfied Customers: 5,208
Experience: 3 Years as an Android Developer, Complete detailed knowlege of all Android Devices and the OS itself
Verified

Hi and thanks for using JustAnswer. My name is ***** ***** I will do whatever I can to help answer your questions.

I am going to answer this as clearly as I can for you, so that you dont have any misunderstandings about how this works. I will take it step by step:
"All of the "Judge" shows on TV, as well as other "Cop" and NCIS programming show people getting those "old" text messages in transcript form long after they've been sent."

This is television. Last night I also saw on NCIS that they took a laptop out of a car bomb and were able to restore the files and locate the person who owned the laptop. Its nothing but a work of fiction, a fabrication of reality for entertainment purposes and almost nothing you see is on those shows is real. Yes, you can restore some data from an old device.

There about 10 labs in the country that have whats called electronic forensics departments. The issue is, to do so, would cost you about $100,000. They are used by the FBI and other federal agencies. They do not retrieve old text messages for people.

If you cannot get your device to turn on, then there is basically zero chance of you being able to restore those messages as they were stored on the internal memory. Also, over years that memory degrades, especially if not powered on and used.

"I understand that they can be retrieved by court order...why then am I being told that they can't be?" - Yes, they can be. But that is not through your phone. That is a process where the court order goes to the Cellular company for copies of the messages. That court order needs to be sent in within 30 days of the text message being sent as the companies do not store the messages longer than that.

While they will tell you that they do not store those messages, that is true and not true. They do not store them with the intent for you to use them, and under no circumstances can you request them, however they do store them for legal purposes and a timely court order can retrieve them from the company.

I hope this clarifies it for you.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Thank you Eric, this is the type of answer that I had expected originally. The information that I need is from August of 2010. I know that it is still stored in my phone without the battery, if the memory has not "leaked out" by now. If I were able to obtain a new battery for that phone somehow, would your expert opinion be that I could, or could not see the text messages?

I get that even for "millions" I couldn't get AT&T to produce them now, but could I possibly still have access to them and not know it? I told the phone to "save them" the minute I got the texts, so that's why I ask.

THANK YOU again for your detailed answer...even if it isn't what I had hoped for, it's what I need to know so that I can proceed to my next idea to try. Priscilla

Cell Phone Technician: Eric, Android Expert replied 6 years ago

Actually Priscilla, if you were to get a new battery, I would be pretty confident that you would be able to see those texts but please dont in any way take that as a guarantee that you will be able to.

I surely hope you can, and I also would be happy to provide you with a link to purchase a battery pretty cheap so you dont waste money on one, just tell me which make and model phone it is.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

THANK YOU, ***** ***** very much. I know that the phone is a Motorola, and I'm tearing the place apart right now to try to find it. I want to say a 620 model (flip phone, no camera) or something, maybe I can find out from AT&T what I had before this new Pantech that I purchased after the Motorola took a dump. The Motorola phone was one of those "throw away" phones that you usually pay for by the minute with no contract. I purchased it because I was angry at AT&T for not replacing the new phone that (I LOST) a week after I purchased it and signed up for a new 2 year contract.

That was about 7 years ago, and I used that $29 Radio Shack phone at that time as my contract phone because I vowed not to purchase another $250 phone from AT&T, or to sign another contract. I finally did 5 months ago when the throw away stopped taking a charge. (I am technologically challenged and because I don't understand it, I get by with whatever works for me that I can understand) I even hate the new Pantech because it isn't the old, easy to use Motorola.

Cell Phone Technician: Eric, Android Expert replied 6 years ago

Its ok Priscilla, take your time. You dont need to run around looking for it just for me. I will be here tonight, tomorrow, next month, etc. When you do find the phone, just take out the battery and look on the inside of the phone and get me the model number and as soon as I see your reply I will find a cheap battery for you.

I am glad that I was able to make your experience with JustAnswer.com better than it was initially.

Thank you for using Just Answer.

Eric
Eric, Android Expert
Category: Cell Phones
Satisfied Customers: 5,208
Experience: 3 Years as an Android Developer, Complete detailed knowlege of all Android Devices and the OS itself
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