Can the Police Use Your Dash Cam Against You?

Dash cams can be useful for many things involving car safety. It can prove your side of the story in a wreck, determine how fast you were really going, or just prove that you were where you said you were at any given time. There are a few things you need to know before you rush out and buy a dash cam, however. You need to find out if they are legal to use in your state, and if the police can seize your dash cam.

Should you buy a dashboard camera?

Dashboard cameras are great for many things. It can help prove who was really at fault in the event of a wreck, like someone running a red light, and then claiming the light was green. The officer can take a quick look at the footage, and you can be on your way faster.

There are other benefits to having a dash cam, according to Insurance.com. One is the fact that it can help you get out of a ticket. If what the camera shows doesn’t match what the officer said, then you can save yourself some money in court. 

Another way it can aid you is to help prevent you from becoming the victim of insurance fraud. If someone deliberately causes a wreck, your dash cam can be turned into both insurance agencies. The evidence will be enough to clear you, and lay the blame where it truly belongs.

An unexpected way dashboard cameras can assist drivers is by showing them where their own mistakes are being made. If your aim is to gain the coveted good driver discount, getting a dash cam can show you exactly where you can improve. It also works for keeping an eye on how your teenager is driving.

That’s not all the dash cam can do. If you have to leave your vehicle unattended, then some dash cams can turn on if it feels motion. Should someone crash into your parked car while you’re not in it, the footage will tell the story. 

Finally, it can help you prove some of those wild events like a rock hitting your car are really true. Insurance companies may claim you’re filing a false claim, but it’s hard to dispute visible evidence.

RELATED: Are Radar Detectors Legal?

As helpful as dashboard cameras can be, there are some instances that you’ll have to jump through some legal loopholes to use it. At the federal level, dash cams are perfectly legal, and you can’t be fined for using one. But things get a little trickier at the state level.

The biggest issue is mounting a dashboard camera on your windshield. This is due mainly to the fact that it can hamper your view. The following states have outlawed dash cams on the windshield:

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Ohio.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a dash cam in your vehicle while traveling through those states. It just means that you can’t have one on the windshield.

There’s also the issue of eavesdropping. If you have a dash cam that can record audio. You have to alert any passengers in your vehicle that the camera is recording. This is also true if someone is working on your car, and the camera is on.

Can police officers seize your dash cam?

Mio dash cam mounted in car is seen in Gdansk, Poland on 14 August 2018 Sales of car cameras (dash cams) is growing in Poland
A dash cam | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RELATED: Is Buying a Dashboard Camera Worth It?

While we’ve discussed using your dashboard camera as evidence, it’s important to note that this may not always be a good thing. If you’re in a wreck or are involved in a crime, the dash cam can be used as evidence against you. The other important fact to note is that officers can seize the dash cam without your permission. Or they can in Britain, at least.

According to Next Base, “Under the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984 the police CAN take your Dash Cam if they believe footage on it can be used as evidence of, or in relation to an offense.”

In the U.S., things get a little trickier. It really boils down to the states, and in many situations, it may be a case-by-case situation.

Justice Counts wrote an article about using dash cams in North Carolina, and reports, “In some cases, a police officer may seize your dash cam after an accident. Seizure of your camera may or may not be legal. Be sure to ask a North Carolina accident attorney to investigate the matter if your dashboard camera was taken after an accident”

So are dashboard cameras worth it? If you need them to prove your innocence, absolutely. Just remember, it’s a double-edged sword that can also be used to prove your guilt.