Legal info on dashcam use
Some of my thoughts on using one of these. Found out some interesting legal info.
It's been close to a month I've been driving around using a GPS with dashcam built-in.
Does it work? Yes, works fine. But this really made me think about the legal use of dashcam footage as the law stands presently, so I looked up some info on it.
The average age of a car in America is 11 years old because people are driving cars longer these days. This means you'll see cars on the road right now (2018) that were made between 2004 and 2010. Most cars of that era have no GPS navigation at all.
Phones can do GPS navigation duty just fine but not dashcam duty because of overheating issues and there's just no way around that. This being true, that's when you get a dedicated dashcam.
Dashcam without GPS is worthless
In certain jurisdictions, if you bring dashcam footage into court and it does not have the correct time displayed in the video, it can't be used as evidence. The short version of the legalese on that says that since it's so easy to manipulate video footage, if the video does not have a correct timestamp, you can't use it and it will be thrown out of court.
The only way to have dashcam footage that can be used as court evidence is that it must contain both the GPS coordinates and timestamp on screen. My Garmin DriveAssist does this. The standalone Garmin Dash Cam 65W also does this, as do other dashcam models.
However, there are still a bunch of dashcams being sold right now that don't display anything other than video footage. No clock and no coordinates. Those dashcams are worthless because there's the real possibility that footage from those basic models can't be used as evidence at all.
Dashcams with GPS offer the most precise timestamp markers you can possibly get. This is because GPS relies on precision timing to get its coordinates, so it's guaranteed accurate. GPS time is just as reliable as the atomic clock, and that's no joke.
Dashcam video legal stuff
The law is written purposely vague where dashcam video is concerned because lawmakers are still trying to figure out what's fair and what isn't with this type of video footage.
Because the law flies all over the place, this is what I've found to be usually true from what I've read:
- Recording dashcam video on any public road: Legal.
- Recording dashcam video of someone's house from the street: Legal, since you're still on a public road.
- Recording dashcam video of someone's house while on their property: Probably not legal without prior consent from the property owner.
- Recording dashcam video in a public parking lot (e.g. interstate rest areas): Legal.
- Recording dashcam video in a privately owned or leased parking lot (e.g. Walmart parking lot): Unknown legal status. This kind of property is technically not public, yet at the same time the owners/leasers of the lot have absolutely no problem whatsoever with you using dashcam video footage to resolve a legal problem with someone else, such as someone backing into your car. The lot owners/leasers are more than happy not to get legally involved with incidents like that whenever possible.
- Recording dashcam video of any police officer: Some states have laws written giving citizens the right to record police officers while others do not. You'll have to look up the state law where you live to get a solid answer on whether you're legally allowed to do it or not.
Is it legal to mount that dashcam there?
In nearly every US state it is illegal to mount anything on the windshield glass. GPS, phone, dashcam, doesn't matter. If you mount it to the windshield, that's illegal...
...but nobody cares. And that includes the cops. They don't care either unless you're being seriously stupid and have something mounted in a way that blocks your view of the road.
Generally speaking, there are 3 places you can mount a dashcam where cops usually won't give you any grief about it:
- Lower left corner of windshield glass. Yes, specifically the left. There are some states with laws saying you can use the lower left of the glass but not the lower right for whatever odd reason.
- Center, not on glass, but rather on dashboard via an adhesive disc to give the suction mount something to stick to.
- Center, in front of the rear view mirror with power lead coming from the roof. They're small enough to where you can do this. Any reputable car stereo shop can install a power lead there easily.
Option 3 is usually the best one to go with because it's the least likely to be seen from the outside of the car.
Am I happy to have a dashcam?
Yes, absolutely. I definitely feel better about driving with one compared to without. Sometimes the law gets weird with what is considered an "okay" mounting position, but I'm still happy to have it.