snapchat photo evidence
Snapchat hidden files may still be useful photo evidence

Photo evidence can often come from some very unexpected sources. Snapchat is still a highly popular app right now, especially among teens and preteens. If you are not a teen or preteen, you may need some explaining. Simply put, Snapchat is a picture-sending social media app; but what makes Snapchat different, however, is that the pictures (typically referred to as “Snapchats”) taken and sent via the Snapchat app will automatically self-destruct after a few seconds and are never seen again. Supposedly. (Unless someone screenshots them.)

What does that mean for you or a potential court case? With Snapchat’s popularity, it’s highly probable that Snapchat may become an important part of a court case. Depending on the nature of the case, the Snapchat generated photos -which have “disappeared”- may become valuable photo evidence. So then what about the photos that supposedly disappeared? Well, they don’t go away as quickly as people think.

For instance, did you know you can recover Snapchats from a phone, even after they’re deleted?

Snapchats Don’t Go Poof

snapchat photo evidenceThat’s right. Snapchats don’t completely disappear. As Richard Hickman explained to, the pictures are just given the file extension “.NOMEDIA” by the Snapchat app, which makes them invisible to most normal phone users. Now, eventually, those files will be actually wiped from the phones storage in order to make more space, but they often hang around for quite a while, and what’s more is that those “disappeared” Snapchats can be recovered from a phone.

Snapchats Are Recoverable

If you were to Google “recover snapchat photos android”(or iPhone), you’ll find many articles or downloadable programs on the topic of recovering these hidden files. Recovering the pictures properly, however, will require a forensic expert who has the right programs and knows what they’re doing. This is especially true if the pictures may be used as evidence in a case.

The Point of Snapchats Photo Evidence in Criminal Cases

snapchat photo evidenceBut why should anyone care about old Snapchat photos? Well, these Snapchats could be material evidence in a case. Cases such as a child pornography case, a family law case or child custody case, or even a civil case such as a slip and fall / personal injury case. The relevant point is that most people don’t think of Snapchats as hanging around, since the app automatically deletes the images. So someone who used Snapchat to capture evidence, but then assumed that evidence is safely deleted are probably not as likely to think they need to go back and erase that evidence. Having a forensic expert recover that hidden evidence, however, could work to your case’s advantage.

NCAVF and David Notowitz attended a photo evidence forensic symposium and heard forensic expert Joseph L. White, MS speak about a case of a man who tried to claim his Snapchats didn’t contain underage nudity. (Which can be found in the AAFS reference library.) The suspect in this case assumed he was safe as the Snapchat images had been “deleted”. A recovery of these images, however, revealed that they did in fact contain underage nudity, which was discovered through the use of forensic video analysis and software. These recovered images were then used as material evidence in the case.


When dealing with a case that involves images that may have been taken with a cell phone, it’s important to be aware that Snapchat may have been used to capture images. And even if Snapchat deleted these images, it might mean there is still hidden evidence buried on the phone’s storage. Therefore, don’t dismay if you need a Snapchat back. It is frequently possible to recover Snapchats from a phone to use in a case. All you’ll need is a little bit of digging, and a forensic video specialist, to bring them back from the grave.