Virginia’s Rules of Evidence, specifically Rule 2:1001(1), define “writing” broadly and a text message clearly is one, even though no Virginia appeals court has considered the question before, Virginia’s Court of Appeals says in Dalton v. Commonwealth (March 31, 2015). Under the “Best Evidence Rule”, Rule 2:1002, a witness cannot testify about what the writing said, if the writing itself is available and can be produced instead, the Court confirmed. But electronic writings often will be “deleted, lost or purged”. So an explanation that the texts were on a discarded phone was a sufficient reason for them to be “lost” and “unattainable”, and so an oral description of them was properly admitted as evidence under Rules 2:1004(a) and (b).
The case also involved screenshots of other text messages. The Court did not rule on their admissibility because the state had conceded that admitting them was error. Instead, it said that any such error was harmless in the circumstances.