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Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules Senders of Text Messages Have No Right to Privacy

Law enforcement can use the contents of text messages as evidence in court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled. The court ruled in 5-0 decision that senders of text messages have no right to privacy, based on the presumption that a text message is like a letter. When a letter is dropped in the mail, the sender relinquishes control over what happens to it. 

Everett and State Police used text message evidence in a drug trafficking case linking Jorge Delgado-Rivera to an alleged drug ring. Delgado-Rivera faces drug-trafficking and money laundering charges in Middlesex Superior Court. Delgado-Rivera has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The recipient of the message, which authorities allege described activities related to drugs and money, has not been charged with a crime in Texas.

The US Supreme Court has not given any specific guidance on the issue of text message privacy, but several courts have held that the fourth amendment does not protect communications of this nature. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the right to privacy in the US Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts state Constitution is lost when the sender sends the message. The court justified its decision by saying that the ease with which a text message can be transmitted digitally after it is sent, lowers the bar for any kind of claim to privacy a sender might have. However, in a footnote to the decision the court noted that when messages are sent through encrypted services, the sender’s intention to protect their privacy may be an issue. 

This decision will impact many who are facing drug trafficking and other crimes in Massachusetts. When you are facing a serious drug crime or any other crime, you may not know what evidence can be used against you in court, especially if you are communicating with people you feel you can trust. That’s why it’s imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible who will advise you of your rights and the admissible evidence in court. This decision has important implications for people who are accused of general crimes as well as more severe white collar crimes.

At Dhar Law, LLP we believe that everyone deserves a fair trial and access to justice. As experienced Boston criminal law attorneys, we understand how to fight for your rights to the fullest extent the law allows. You should not have to face unfair intrusions if necessary. If you are facing any serious charge and are concerned about your rights regarding electronic communication, please contact Dhar Law to see how we can help. 

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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

— Vikas Dhar
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