In the digital age, it’s increasingly easy to sign documents electronically. Many of us had probably come across an e-signature in our lives, whether when we signed up for a new online service or were required to submit our paperwork electronically as part of a job application.
But do electronic signatures hold up in court? The answer is yes – but there are some things you need to know before you start using them. This article will examine what makes electronic signatures legally binding and the criteria for admissibility in court.
Table of Contents
- What Makes Electronic Signature Valid?
- So, Do Electronic Signatures Hold Up in Court?
- What Are the Criteria for Admissibility in Court Proceedings?
- Key Takeaway
What Makes Electronic Signature Valid?
Validity isn’t the same as admissibility as each one is distinct from the other, bears a different set of requirements, and may have different outcomes when it comes to court proceedings.
A valid electronic signature is one that has been created using a technology that is recognized by the law. For example, in the United States, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) recognizes signatures created using digital signatures.
Here are the electronic signature requirements or five elements that make an electronic signature valid and legally binding:
It means that the signer intended to sign the document and that their identity can be verified.
The signer must have their consent to sign the document electronically, which can be done through an opt-in checkbox or option that asks for the signer’s consent.
The signer must intend to sign the document and agree to its contents.
The agreement must be recorded in a way that is tamper-proof and accessible to both parties.
The data in the document must remain intact and unaltered from the time it was signed.
Once these five requirements are met, an electronic signature can be considered valid and legally binding. In addition, it is important to note that you should treat electronic signatures with the same level of security as handwritten signatures.
It means they should be kept safe from tampering or alteration, and only authorized individuals should use them.
So, Do Electronic Signatures Hold Up in Court?
Generally yes, but it depends on some cases where they can hold up in court provided they meet the requirements to make them valid and legal. The ESIGN Act states that “a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”
However, when it comes to admissibility, the judge’s willingness to accept its validity depends on how the document was signed. They should have the five elements mentioned above.
Anyone who has claimed over (or against) an electronically signed document in front of a judge must prove that the electronic signature in the document bears the intention and data integrity.
It only means that even if the electronic signature is valid and legally binding by nature, but the document was tampered with or altered in any way after it was signed, there’s a higher chance that the judge will not admit or hold it in court proceedings.
The inadmissibility in the court of such an electronically signed document is can be due to the weak data integrity and security and may have a lack of audit trails and logs.
That’s why using reliable e-signature solutions with the highest and strongest technical integrity is important.
What Are the Criteria for Admissibility in Court Proceedings?
There are six main criteria for admissibility in court proceedings regarding electronic signatures. They are security, audit logs and trails, email address and IP address, signature certificates, additional authentication, and biometrics.
Let’s go over each one briefly.
- Security refers to how well the electronic signature method protects against forgery and fraud. Judges will want to see that appropriate measures were taken to ensure the validity of the signature, such as using a secure server or encrypting the document.
- Audit logs and trails refer to records that can be used to track who signed a document and when. This is important to prove that the signature is valid and has not been tampered with.
- Emails and IP addresses can be used to identify the signer and verify their identity. This is usually done through a third-party service that checks the signer’s identity against a database.
- Signature certificates are digital signatures that a trusted third party issues. They can be used to verify the identity of the signer and the integrity of the document.
- Additional authentication can be used to verify the identity of the signer, such as requiring a PIN or password. Biometrics can be used to verify the identity of the signer by using their fingerprint, iris scan, or voiceprint.
These criteria must be met for an electronic signature to be considered valid in a court of law. You may also consult with your legal counsel and lawyers about these elements and ensure that you understand the implications of electronic signatures in business and legal matters.
Electronic signatures provide a fast, efficient and secure way of doing just that. While there may be some reservations about their use initially, it is evident that they hold up in court when all required elements are in place.
This makes them an incredibly powerful tool for businesses looking to streamline operations and close deals quickly and securely.
With that said, you might want to try the Fill app today if you’re looking for a reliable electronic signature solution. It’s like your Swiss army knife e-signature and document management tool that lets you sign documents online.
It uses military-grade 256-bit end-to-end encryption to ensure that all documents are secured throughout data transmission. It also supports audit trails and logs to ensure that you can keep track of all your documents and signatures.