In both criminal and civil trials, evidence can come in many forms. One of those forms is a voice recording. A voice recording can be evidence in certain situations. All evidence presented in a court of law must comply with the evidentiary rules of that particular jurisdiction. Each state has its own rules, while federal rules have a different set of rules. However, both types of courts require some type of verification that the voice on the recording is true.
The party presenting the evidence bears the burden of proving the truth of the recording.
A party can show the truthfulness of the recording by proving several factors, such as:
1. The ability of the recording device to record sound correctly
2. The competency of the operator of the device
3. The correctness of the tape
4. That there were no changes to the recording
5. How the recording was handled from recording to being presented in court
6. The identification of the parties recorded
7. Whether one of the parties knew and consented to being recorded.
There are many advantages of using voice recordings as evidence. The emotional nature of conversation is much easier to show if a jury can hear the voices. For example, if a witness says that they were scared at the time of the recording but their voice is calm and serene on tape, that witness' creditability could be damaged. The jury draws their own conclusions about whether a voice belongs to a certain person. A party can identify their voice but the jury determines the creditability of that identification for themselves.
Sound recordings are not infallible however. A jury can assign very little weight to a recording if they do not believe the speaker. A court may allow the evidence to go in front of the jury, but the jury decides whether it believes it or not. The clarity of the recording is very important and an unclear recording could cast doubt on the subject of the recording.
Verifying the recording can be complicated. Often the recording must be examined by a forensic audiologist to ensure that it has not been altered. This can be expensive for the verifying party. Also even if the audiologist determines the tape to be accurate, they may also turn up some negative evidence that may be used by the opposing party.
Like most evidence, the court examines the evidence for minimum standards of truthfulness before it gets to the jury. The jury then determines how the evidence will impact their verdict. A recording can be much more detailed than a simple transcription. However, a party must be careful that those details will help, and not hinder, their case.