Before one buys and installs a dash cam in his or her car, it is a good idea to investigate whether or not dash cams are legal where they live!
As much as these devices may be perfectly legal in lots of areas, there are two crucial questions that could potentially land a person in hot water. The first one involves the obstruction of one’s view through the front windshield, while the second one relates to electronic surveillance.
These issues will vary from one place to another on how they are dealt with, or even from a jurisdiction to another in a country. So it is essential to first verify the repercussions of the law in your specific area of residence before hitting the road with cameras rolling.
There are two main things to keep in mind about dash cam laws:
Among the first legal issues to come across with a dashboard camera has to do with the obstruction of your view. This is due to the fact that most of these devices don’t actually mount on the dashboard, but instead most of them are in fact designed to be mounted on the windshield via a suction cup mounting system.
The reason behind this being an important distinction is that lots of jurisdictions put restrictions on how much of a windshield can be obscured by devices such dashboard cameras or GPS navigation gadgets.
A general rule of thumb is that, once a dash cam obscures more than a 5 inch square on the driver’s side or 7 inch square on the passenger’s side, some jurisdictions may give you an issue. Without doubt, some places have tighter restrictions while others don’t have any sort of windshield obscuring restrictions in their laws, and hence it is essential to first check the municipal code or specific law in your area of residence.
One can take the option of contacting a local law enforcement person or a lawyer who has experience in the domain, although the only way to ensure one gets the correct information is by going directly to the source. We prefer the option of checking it out online, as most jurisdictions provide easy online access to the local codes and laws.
Luckily, all the cameras that we have at Eyewitness Dashcams are very compact and won’t be an issue especially when you mount them behind or just below your rear view mirror.
The Question of Electronic Surveillance
As much as dash cams are technically a form of surveillance, one may run into hot water from the electronic surveillance laws depending on the area of residence. Data protection laws may also be available in some places, for example the laws that consider dash cams illegal in Switzerland. Specific laws rendering dash cams illegal are not there in other countries. Like for example, dashboard cameras are normally legal in Australia, while there are no federal laws against them in the U.S.
This, however, may only be applicable to video. For example, there are a number of laws in both the U.S and Australia which regard audio recordings as covert. Under this, the use of a dash cam to record a conversation in an automobile without knowledge of the parties involved may be actually illegal.
The key word in the above statement is knowledge, which means that one will be in a safe zone if he/she alerts the passengers that they are being recorded as soon as they enter the automobile. The issue can also be taken care of by buying a dashboard camera that does not record audio, or even disabling the audio recording functionality, which will in turn render the issue as a subject of debate.