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Emojis as Evidence

by | Jul 22, 2019 | Criminal Defense, Firm News |

Early in the existence of the “Internet Age,” a form of shorthand developed to convey laughing out loud and other reactions to random posts or direct messages. Yet, for those online aficionados, abbreviations did not go far enough in their brevity.

Thus, emojis were born and became the parlance of our time.

While use skyrockets, new types of emojis pop up every day, further complicating their interpretations and subtle or not-so-subtle nuances. Not to mention the generation gap that creates even more confusion. Regardless of age or tech-savviness, emojis are nowhere near a universal language.

Attorneys and judges in criminal cases are now parsing the small cartoonish characters used to convey emotions. Lacking guidelines, emojis are left to descriptions by a judge to jurors and not leave it up to interpretation. Letting individuals actually see the emoji and draw their own conclusions can further create gray areas. In some cases, the option is to omit the “shorthand” altogether.

Further complicating emojis as evidence is how they look on different platforms. The Unicode Consortium only establishes emoji standards, but not the look. That is left up to software makers to create their unique versions. What can seem to be a happy face on one platform may be threatening to another.

Approaching the 3,000 mark, emojis are not going anywhere. With any type of technology comes a period of adjustment. Court cases involving emojis grew to 53 in 2018, up from 33 in 2017. The first six months of 2019 is approaching 50. Growing familiarity will make attorneys and judges more comfortable with the expressions and adapt existing legal principles to them.

For those falsely accused of serious crimes, the sooner, the better.