Can Scanned Copies of Contracts be used in Court for Debt Collection?
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In any courtroom, evidence should meet specific standards to be admissible.  It is important to determine the authenticity of evidence when a person’s guilt or innocence is being judged.  Before admitting evidence, the court will take the necessary measures to ensure its relevance.


Before deciding to take any legal action, credit companies or organizations will need to consider the impact of a debt collection lawsuit.  The court may require the creditor to disclose certain information about their policies and systems that may be considered sensitive.  The company might not want to expose their network systems, source code and configuration systems.  When filing a lawsuit, the creditor should be willing to cooperate in provide all types of information needed by the court.


Authentication Process

The court will have to evaluate digital evidence beforehand to verify the claims of the proponent.  In a debt collection lawsuit, the proponent is the creditor.  The court will need to examine the evidence presented by the creditor.  Hearsay evidence is immediately rejected.  The court may require original copies of documents for authenticity and verification.  There are other issues that the court will have to consider to determine the admissibility of evidence.  Failure to consider such issues may lead to the proponent losing the case if evidence is to be excluded.

One of the most important elements of determining authenticity of evidence is maintaining and recording the chain of custody of evidence.  Digital evidence is admissible in court if authenticity is proven and verified.  Every person who handled the evidence will be required by the court to testify.  The testimony should declare that the evidence presented in court is the same evidence before there was a lawsuit.  The number of people who will testify along with the creditor should be kept to a minimum.  They will need to demonstrate that the digital evidence has not been altered in any way since it was collected.

This is a necessary procedure in court to demonstrate chain of custody.  Without the solid chain of custody, it could be argued by the defendant (debtor) that the evidence may have been altered or mishandled.  The defendant can say that the creditor has replaced the original information with incriminating evidence.




Best Practice

Creditors are advised to keep copies of relevant documents.  Photocopiers, scanners and computers are acceptable tools in creating exact duplicates.  The copies of digital evidence are generally acceptable.  Presenting a copy reduces the risk that the original document will be altered.  Generating a paper printout of digital evidence is accepted and considered equivalent to the original.  The creditor will have to ensure that the copy is clear and shows all information that the original has.


Modern technology has eliminated the need for recording transactions on paper.  Keeping digital records will make documentation more convenient and accurate.  Organizing and retrieving files will not become a time-consuming task if everything is already stored in a computer.  A back-up file should always be maintained for security purposes.  The credit company should also take the necessary steps to ensure digital files are protected from unauthorized use.


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