When you are a victim of a crime or have been wronged or injured, you are left to deal with the pain. Whether you have been retaliated against, sexually harassed, assaulted, raped, abused or otherwise harmed, you are often are left traumatized and shocked. You might want to erase all memories of the perpetrator or event. Victims of sexual assault may jump into a hot shower. Victims of workplace discrimination may burn their rejection letters. Victims of sexual harassment may delete texts and social media posts from the harasser.
No matter how badly you want to heal from your ordeal, please resist the impulse to destroy evidence! At Johnson & Groninger, we understand the urge to hit “delete.” It is only natural for victims to want to forget everything and rebuild their lives after the horror they have experienced. However, achieving justice and pursuing legal remedies against a defendant requires hard evidence. Even evidence you may be embarrassed to show your attorney may be essential to your case. Here are some tips from the lawyers at Johnson & Groninger:
To pursue a claim, you must preserve all evidence
If you plan to file a lawsuit in North Carolina, you have a duty to maintain, preserve, retain, protect, and not destroy any and all documents and data, both electronic and hard copies, that may be relevant to the claim. The failure to preserve and retain the data is called “spoliation of evidence,” and it is no joke. If you do destroy evidence, you may have to pay money because of it. Here are examples of evidence included in the duty to preserve:
- All text files and text messages
- All word processing files
- Financial data
- E-mail files, history logs, and deleted files
- Internet history files and preferences
- Databases, calendar and scheduling information and task lists
- Voice mails and instant messages
- Objects that have to do with the case
If you have any questions about what material is subject to the spoliation rules, discuss the issue with your attorney before deleting or removing it.
Save all evidence, not just the evidence you think is helpful
Even evidence that weakens your case must be preserved. You may believe your case will appear stronger if you delete certain text threads or social media posts. For example, you may think that deleting a text inviting someone on a date will strengthen your harassment claim. Or that deleting a Facebook post describing past sexual activity will strengthen your rape claim. But you would be very wrong.
In addition to exposing you to a spoliation claim, deleting and destroying evidence – especially evidence that may weaken your case – may backfire and destroy your whole case in the end. Technology is so advanced that forensic investigators likely will uncover any evidence you try to delete. The investigator’s findings of deleting or hiding evidence can be used later to attack your credibility and to make you appear deceitful or dishonest. In many cases, proof of intentional destruction of evidence is much, much more damaging to a case than the original text or post would have been.
The attorneys at Johnson & Groninger recognize that some evidence is more helpful than other evidence. However, if you do your job and save everything, they will do their job and use all the evidence to fight for your rights. When it comes to preserving evidence, honesty is the best policy.