The process of using a dashcam as evidence against someone is not that simple, especially if you’re the one capturing footage and intending to use it as evidence. To understand what difficulties may arise for the person caught on camera, it’s important to know what’s allowed regarding using dashcam footage at trial.
Who Can Use a Dash Cam as Evidence?
To successfully use dashcam footage as evidence against somebody, several criteria must be met. First of all, the person sending dashcam footage to police should have the camera to stand by the fact that they’re not doing anything wrong and are only attempting to report a crime or protect themselves. Secondly, it must show clear evidence of an offense taking place. Last but not least, the video must be admissible in court, meaning that it should meet all the specific criteria for evidence.
What Is a Dashcam?
A dashboard camera, also known as a car camera or dashboard video recorder (DVR), records visual footage from the front of a moving vehicle. Dash cams are used for recording sporting events and personal security like accidents and theft.
The term “dash cam” refers to any portable recorder that records video inside a vehicle, including cameras outside the car. Dashcams can usually be mounted inside the vehicle on the dashboard, and they can record the road in front of the vehicle. Some cameras will record both audio and video, while others will only record audio. Some cameras come with features like GPS that allow you to track your vehicle’s location, speed, and route traveled and automatically save footage or sound clips when an impact is detected.
Situations Where Police Can Ask For Your Dashcam
Police can use your dash camera for many reasons. Some of these reasons are:
1) To prove that it was you who hit a person or caused an accident.
2) To prove that it wasn’t you who hit a person or caused an accident.
3) To prove that it was not your fault for any other reason.
4) To get help on how to give better service in the future.
5) To use as evidence against another driver(s).
6) As a theft deterrent.
7) To determine precisely how far away you hit something.
8) To judge if your car slapped or collided with another object.
9) To prove that you entered the freeway while at a red light.
10) To help you prevent future accidents.
Can Police Use Your Dashcam Against You?
It is illegal for police to seize a dashcam without serving a notice first. There are specific procedures police would have to follow to obtain access to the footage. However, if your dashcam was stolen or taken without permission, the police can seize the device as evidence and use it to prosecute you.
There would be many instances where law enforcement could ask for access to video footage of an incident, such as when a person is injured during an accident. Since the dashcam is a mobile device, there are no legal restrictions on how long you can hold onto the footage. The only limitation would be if the videotape were of a public place, like when you stopped for gas at a gas station or pulled over at a red light, you need to either delete the footage or turn it in to the police.
What Should You Do in These Situations?
1) If Police Are Attempting To Seize Your Dashcam
• Ask them for a search warrant. A search warrant is a document that grants authority to police to perform a search and seizure of specific property. The officer or officers must state the specific location and items that will be searched and seized.
• Ask if you can continue to videotape and get a copy of the video. You may want to keep a copy for evidence in case the police mishandle your dashcam. If you are unsure, ask them again.
• Ask if you can have it in your possession until they seize it or delete it off of your camera.
2) If Police Ask To Copy Your Dashcam
• If it is a copy, you will be asked to pay for the copying cost.
• Police can get the original and eight copies of your dashcam footage. If you are being charged, contact an attorney or legal counsel immediately.
• The original can be kept by police until they are given a valid court order. If the police don’t have a valid court order yet, they may keep your dashcam until the case goes to trial.
3) If Your Dashcam Was Stolen
• File a report with law enforcement as soon as possible. You can obtain police reports online, and it is best to do so to show that you were the victim of burglary.
• If you have a tracking device on your dashcam, use that to find it and turn it into the police.
Tips for Keeping Your Device Secure
• Try to keep your device attached securely in the center of the windscreen or dashboard of your vehicle.
• You can also buy a protective case for your dashcam so that it is easier for you to find if someone tries to steal it.
• Some devices come with an alarm system activated if an object moves too close to the camera. If you have a dashcam with an alarm system on it, you will have to disable this system for police to use your footage.
• Some devices are set up with geo-tracking so that police must send in a phone number to activate the device. The police will need your personal information (name, date of birth, and address) to turn off the tracking feature.
• Belkin makes a dashcam that has a built-in “find my device” feature. If someone tries to steal your device, they will not use it unless they know your personal information.
• Make sure you get a good lock system on your dashcam that is difficult to break into.
Are Dash Cams Legal?
Some people confuse these cameras with dashcams and believe that they are illegal. However, no law prohibits the use of a dashboard camera or even a dashcam in your vehicle. These cameras may have audio recording capabilities, which sometimes include conversations in the car. You should check on your state’s policy regarding this matter before buying and installing one of these cameras in your vehicle.
Potential Dash Cam Legal Issues
Although dashcams are not illegal, there may be laws against using them without proper authority.
1) Recording in Public Places: You must check with local law enforcement agencies if using a dashcam in a public place is legal. Most states have laws concerning privacy when recording in public places, but there may be situations in which you can record without hurting your privacy.
2) Determining Liability in an Accident: If you or your vehicle are involved in an accident and have a dashcam attached to your car, the other party or parties may ask for access to the dashcam videos.
3) An Overriding Right to Privacy: Law enforcement may have the legal authority to seize or remove dashcam footage from a person in certain instances.
4) Know Your Legitimate Uses: Although dashcams are not illegal, there may be situations where only law enforcement officials or specific individuals can have access to them. If you are using a dashcam for a legitimate purpose, then there is no issue with the legal authority to use or seize the footage.
Benefits of Dashcams
In my opinion, the advantages of a dashboard camera for law enforcement vehicles far outweigh any disadvantages. It gives departments another source of evidence and an objective account of the incident being investigated.
There are many circumstances where video footage from a vehicle can resolve disputes about what happened. It had also helped exonerate officers when people were falsely accusing them of misconduct or using excessive force.
What Are the Disadvantages?
1. More Expensive: A dashboard camera costs more than a video recorder and extra camera wires for a VCR.
2. Multiple Versions of Dashcams: Many different types of dashcams have different features and performance levels. When selecting a dashcam, determine which type you need rather than finding the cheapest one that you can find.
3. Inaccurate Time: Many times, when officers record video and audio from their dashcams, the time recorded is incorrect.
Dashcams are a very useful tool for police officers and departments. It gives them another means of evidence and is a help in making their jobs safer. They are also helping to keep officers safe because they are aware whenever they enter a situation where their life may be threatened. In addition, dashcams can help an officer to use force to protect themselves and others.
Hope this article was informational and provided you with relevant details on dashcams and the legal issues that need to be faced with police authorities.
Q: Can I use my dashcam if someone has been injured in a car accident?
A: You must give the police any evidence that they ask for. Dashcam footage is an integral part of an investigation.
Q: Can I use a dashcam to record conversations with people or law enforcement?
A: You need to check with your state to see if recording conversations is legal. It may be illegal in some states. In some states, you can record conversations without the other party’s consent.
Q: Can police try to delete footage from my dashcam or seize it during a traffic stop?
A: Police must have valid legal reasons for seizing any evidence. If you think that an officer has stolen your dashcam, it would be best to consult with a lawyer.