Cell phone companies generally save text messages on their servers for just a few days, if at all. They won’t give you text messages without a subpoena, even your own. This is especially significant since it takes time to file a suit and then get a subpoena. For this reason, handsets are a more common source of text messages for forensic evidence.
If you want to retrieve your own text messages from the cell phone company, for example for exonerating evidence, the company may charge a prohibitive price, on the order of £3 per message.
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Things you need
File a lawsuit in order to get a subpoena to retrieve the text messages. Your lawyer can help you with this if you don’t think you can do it yourself. For example, the lawyer can help you with deciding whom to sue. In the case of a divorce, the suit would be directed at a spouse. In the case of retrieving your own text messages, your lawyer may direct you to sue the cell phone company for the messages.
Apply to subpoena the cell phone company for the text messages. Again the lawyer will help you with this.
Have your lawyer contact the cell phone provider’s customer service number after you’ve obtained the subpoena. They will transfer your lawyer to their legal department so a copy of the subpoena can be forwarded.
Tips and warnings
- Verizon Wireless saves text messages for three to five days, but they search their servers for older text messages if they receive a subpoena. Other phone services may do likewise, but the saving and backing up policy varies between phone companies.
- A subpoena for the cell phone with the text messages may be a more fruitful subpoena to pursue, especially since forensic experts can recover even deleted test messages from a handset.
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