Can Dash Cam Footage Be Used in Court?
Please note: The information contained in this article is not intended to be legal advice. If you've been in an accident or are involved in a legal case where dash cam footage may be used as evidence, you should contact an attorney.
Maybe you've been there – You're driving to work one morning, listening to your favorite podcast as you travel down the highway, when suddenly another driver swerves into your lane. You slam on the brakes, but it's too late to prevent an accident. The other driver claims that you were the one driving recklessly, but luckily you've got dash cam footage that shows what happened in the moments leading up to the incident. Can the dash cam footage be used in court? Yes, in most cases it can be, although the law may vary in different jurisdictions.
Dash cam video — as long as it is recorded in a public place, is relevant to the case, and can be authenticated (meaning that it can be proved that the footage is from your camera and recorded at the time of the incident) — is nearly always admissible in court. Simply having video evidence of what happened can also help you in settlement negotiations with your insurance company or in a civil case. The quality of the video and what it records can affect its value to your argument, however. Low quality, grainy video footage may not provide a clear enough picture to identify or determine who was at fault. And if the actual accident – and the circumstances leading up to it – aren't fully visible in the footage, the dash cam footage may not be useful in court.
If you're in a serious accident and you have dash cam video clips of the incident, you should speak to a lawyer about whether or not it helps your case. Installing a good quality dash cam can also help ensure that you have access to the footage you need should an incident occur.
Most dash cams will include data such as the date and time as a watermark on the video itself. In addition, some dash cams that include GPS can also display latitude/longitude coordinates as well as driving speed in the video footage, further helping identify important information. Smart dash cams that are cloud-enabled can also save emergency or locked footage so that you can be sure you’ll always have access to the video.
Finally, a dash cam that allows you to record multiple views beyond what’s in front of you can also help your case. Dash cams that can record the interior cabin-view of your vehicle and/or the rear-view behind your vehicle will help ensure you’ve got multiple angles of footage prior, during, and after an accident or incident.
Can Dash Cam Footage Be Used Against You?
Dash cam footage can be used against you if it shows you doing something illegal or behaving in a way that led to an accident, so it's always recommended that you speak to a lawyer before you share the video with anyone. Even in cases where someone else's actions may have directly caused an accident, dash cam footage can be used in court against you if it shows that you were speeding, changing lanes illegally, or doing anything else that could have been a contributing factor.
Your behavior after an accident might also have an impact on your case. If the dash cam footage shows you yelling at the other driver or otherwise acting aggressively, it could weaken your argument. Low quality video may also hurt your case if it doesn't provide a clear view of what happened or who was at fault.
Can I Send Dash Cam Video to the Police?
You can send dash cam video to the police, but again, you may want to talk to a lawyer before doing so. Remember that anything on the video that shows you doing something questionable could be used against you. If you have dash cam video that shows someone else committing a crime, such as a hit and run, vandalism, or theft, sharing the video with police may help them identify or prosecute the person involved. Keep in mind that, if the case goes to court and your dash cam video is used as evidence, you may be required to testify. Speak to a lawyer first to get a better understanding of the evidentiary value of the dash cam footage and what may be required of you.
How to submit dash cam footage to the police in your jurisdiction can vary, so it's best to reach out to your local police department through a non-emergency phone number or other contact method and ask what their process is. You may be required to submit the SD memory card from your dash camera (or the entire camera, if it does not have a removable memory card) to the police, rather than submitting a digital file. This allows the police to review the recording to make sure that it hasn't been tampered with and the video has not been edited. If the police accept video submissions digitally, keep in mind that dash cam media files are often large, so you may not be able to share them over email because of attachment size limitations. Look for a file sharing service that allows you to store large files. No matter how you share them, it's a good idea to make a personal backup copy of all videos before submitting dash cam footage to the police.