Dash cams are an increasingly popular accessory for cars among safety-minded drivers. Their affordable price-point and straightforward functionality makes them a worthwhile investment for anyone who wants added security on the road. In some countries, insurance companies even require drivers to install a dash cam in order to ensure claims are settled quickly and fairly.
But with technology often outpacing the legal system, many are wondering how exactly the information can be used. Below, we breakdown dash cam basics and whether or not they can be used for your case.
What are “dash cams” and how are they used?
Dash cam is shorthand for “dashboard camera,” which refers to a broad category of video recording devices specifically designed for cars. The cameras continuously record while the car is in motion and are typically installed to capture footage from the front and back of the car in order to document accidents or acts of vandalism. As it records, the dash cam stores information on a memory card, and the footage from the camera also streams through a display. Some critics have argued the additional screen can exacerbate distracted driving but dash cam enthusiasts have defended its usefulness for proving fault.
When can dash cam footage be used in court?
As long as dash cam footage is relevant to the case, recordings are almost always admissible in court. However, there are a few exceptions.
Much like cell phone video, dash cam video is limited in what it can record. Dash cams are not allowed to record events that take place on private property; their scope is limited to events that take place in public view, in public areas. Some dash cams also record footage of the car’s interior, but the driver needs to have consent from any passengers in order to record. If the passengers have not consented, the camera will have to be turned off (any resulting footage would likely not be admissible). While most dash cams only record visuals, a few record audio, which is typically not admissible in court, as it is difficult to obtain the advance consent of those the audio is recording.
While Texas and New Mexico do not have any specific laws against dash cams, some states do, so make sure you are aware of what’s legal when traveling nationally or internationally.
Should you turn over dash cam footage?
When deciding whether or not to submit dash cam footage as evidence, consulting a lawyer is the best option. While it might seem obvious to submit footage of an accident to prove fault, the footage can also prove that the driver recording was traveling at high speeds or otherwise engaging in aggressive driving behavior, which can weaken the overall case. Similarly, if the driver gets out and begins berating whoever caused the accident, this can weaken the argument. Furthermore, if the footage is too grainy or doesn’t clearly indicate fault, it can further muddle the facts of the case and the footage may be dismissed.