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Text messages must be separately authenticated

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In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined text messages are subject to separate authentication before being admitted into evidence, much like the authentication process that data saved in a computer must undergo before being admitted.

In Darby L. Hape v. State of Indiana, No. 63A01-0804-CR-175, Darby Hape was convicted of felony possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, felony resisting law enforcement, and was found to be a habitual offender. After his convictions, he discovered that during deliberations, the jury was able to turn on one of his cell phones, which had been admitted into evidence, and see text messages, including one from "Brett." The text messages weren't introduced as evidence during the trial. Hape claimed that exposure required a correction of error and permission to poll the jury regarding the prejudicial impact of the text message on its deliberations. The trial court denied his motion.

The appellate court upheld the denial of Hape's motion to poll the jury because the text messages didn't constitute extraneous prejudicial information and he didn't meet his burden under Indiana Evidence Rule 606(b) in attempting to impeach the jury verdict with testimony about the messages, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The text messages are intrinsic to the cell phone and the jury discovered the text messages by turning on the phone that was admitted into evidence. Turning on the phone didn't constitute an extrajudicial experiment that impermissibly exposed the jury to extraneous information, wrote Judge Vaidik.

The appellate court determined the Confrontation Clause doesn't bar the text messages from "Brett" on the phone because they are not testimonial, wrote the judge. There aren't any Indiana cases involving authentication of text messages generated and stored in cell phones, but the Court of Appeals ruled the text messages should be subject to the same authentication requirement of data saved in a computer before it can be admitted into evidence.

"Even though we have determined that a text message stored in a cellular telephone is intrinsic to the telephone, a proponent may offer the substance of the text message for an evidentiary purpose unique from the purpose served by the telephone itself. Rather, in such cases, the text message must be separately authenticated pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 901(a)," Judge Vaidik wrote.

Even though the jury saw the text messages without proper authentication, it didn't rise to the level of fundamental error because the jury's exposure was harmless. The evidence against Hape is strong and compelling without the text messages, she wrote.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Hape's convictions but reversed his adjudication as a habitual offender for lack of sufficient evidence and his corresponding 30-year sentence enhancement. The matter is remanded to the trial court to issue a new sentencing order not inconsistent with the opinion.

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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