Translating Social Media Evidence in Court Cases

Certified Translation of Foreign Language Social Media Updates

We’ve blogged about social media translation services in the context of marketing legal services to foreign clients. Many people spend a substantial amount of time daily on social media. As such, posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media platforms make their way into evidence in domestic and foreign litigation. However, not all social media posts are in English. Therefore, if there are posts in another language, it is often necessary to authenticate the information they contain in reference to the language and to the posts as being made by the person in question. Reliable information linking foreign-language social media posts and the adverse party can make all of the difference in a case.

Can Foreign Language Text Messages be Used as Evidence in Court?

Yes, text messages written in foreign languages can be used as evidence in court.  In State v. De Jesus-Martinez, 2014 Del. C.P. Lexis, the court was tasked with finding if a person had harassed the other party. The State introduced a Facebook page with pictures into evidence that included the defendant’s statements that were translated from Spanish. The translation included a discussion of a “war” and that the “actions will speak for themselves” once the defendant was off probation. The person to whom the post was written was afraid of what the defendant would do to carry out his threats. This person knew that the post came from the defendant because his name was listed as the user and the picture was one the individual recognized. Additionally, the person who received the message knew that the defendant used a particular picture as his Facebook profile. Although the two parties were not Facebook friends at the time of the posting, they had mutual friends who were tagged in each other’s page. After the individual received the threatening message, she went to the local police department and spoke to a corporal there who was commonly referred to cases involving people who used the Spanish language. The corporal translated the messages and found that the victim’s translation was accurate.

The defendant in the case claimed that he was not the person who wrote the communication and that the State had not laid a proper foundation to authenticate the message. Additionally, he argued that the post was not intended for the victim.

However, the court found that the victim was credible and had provided enough evidence to link the defendant with the threatening communication. This finding was in compliance with Delaware’s Rules of Evidence because the rule allows authentication of social media posts by having a witness testify as to what the evidence is, by distinctive characteristics of the evidence or by evidence that shows that the documentary evidence is accurately produced.

In Sublet v. State, 442 Md. 632 (Md. 2015), the defendant similarly alleged that he was not the person who made a Facebook post and that the posts were not properly admitted into evidence under the state’s rules.

The defendant argued that there was not any identifying information from his Facebook profile, such as a date of birth. Additionally, he argued that there was not any testimony that the messages were from him. The messages expressed remorse for harming the victim in question. However, the State argued that there was circumstantial evidence connecting the defendant to the messages.

The defendant’s ex-girlfriend testified that the time stamps were sent soon after the incident in question in Spanish. She testified that the defendant was on her account at the time. The court found that there was adequate information to admit the Spanish Facebook posts into evidence.

The ex-girlfriend testified that she received the Facebook messages in Spanish, the defendant called her shortly after making the Facebook posts and she received a handwritten note in Spanish. The appellate court found that these various communications all in Spanish made around the same time provided adequate evidence upon which the trial judge could rely on to authenticate the Facebook messages. Because the test in Maryland was whether there were enough distinctive characteristics from which a trial judge could properly determine that a reasonable juror could find that direct messages or tweets were authentic, the appellate court found that this bar was met in the case.

Certified Evidentiary Translation of Foreign Language Social Media Posts

Social media posts cannot always be presented as evidence in court. They must go through the proper authentication process so that the court can determine if they are reliable and are what the person presenting them claims them to be. In addition to these difficulties, if a Facebook post or other social media message is in another language, the translated evidence must be certified by a legal translator or otherwise properly authenticated for the court’s consideration. Not having this proper authentication can result in the court not considering the evidence.

Contact our legal document translation firm to inquire about obtaining certified legal translation services for court, including translating foreign language text messages, foreign chat conversations and multilingual social media updates from Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, Mongolian, Thai, Romanian, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin written in Traditional Chinese and in Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Greek to be admissible in evidence and accepted by the court.

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