United States Laws on Using Dash Cams

Law books on the shelf


This article, as well as other materials on this site, is published for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized legal advice. By publishing such articles Brigele Inc. does not enter into attorney-client relationships with site visitors or with users of Brigele products.

Using a dash cam is definitely an advantage. But installing dash cam in your car is also bringing some responsibilities. Although rarely mentioned, there are many laws that apply to all dashboard camera users. This article is giving an overview of laws applicable to using and installing dash cams in the United States.

Note that other countries may have similar (or sometimes, completely different) laws, but in this article we only cover what is applicable to the United States.

Major Limitations or Requirements

Surprisingly, more than a third of the States either completely bans or seriously limits placing objects on the windshield. There you cannot put anything on the windshield or you can only place it in specifically designated areas that are rarely good for a dash cam.

Very few people are aware of it, but it is still a reality. Although these rules are rarely enforced, people still may get fined, for example, if an officer during traffic stop encounters a dash cam attached to windshield.

Second, the privacy and recording laws. Recording others is regulated by federal and state recording laws, and generally you need to have their consent prior to recording. These laws are much stricter about recording in private places, and because a car is a place where a person has reasonable expectations of privacy – recording your passengers and their conversations with dash cam may violate the law in many cases.

Third, some states have certain legal requirements applicable to dash cams. Majority of the states do not have any rules for the dash cams, but in the few exceptions there might be some obligations you need to know about. We will discuss them later in this article.

These three topics are the major legal issues a motorist should be aware of when using a dash cam. Next we will discuss them in greater detail.


Most important legal aspects for dashboard camera users:
• Ban on placing objects on the windshield in some states
• Recording and wiretapping laws
• Specific state regulations concerning use of dash cams

Mounting a Dash Cam on the Windshield

According to our research, 12 of the states (24% out of all 50 states and D.C.) in the US do not allow to mount any objects on the windshield. Another 8 states (16%) limit where you can attach something on the windshield, but mostly in the areas that are not suitable for dash cams. And only 31 states (61%) allow placing objects on the windshield, plus 4 states (10%, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin) have exception made specifically for dash cams. This is particularly important for dashboard camera owners because most of the dash cams are mounted on the windshield. Thus you can legally drive with a dash cam conveniently mounted on the windshield only in 31 states (61%).

Windshield mounts legal status in the United States

This restriction is usually a provision in vehicle code, and explained as a measure to avoid obstruction of driver’s view of the road. Sometimes there may be exception specifically for dash cams (e.g. in Arizona dash cams are welcome), but not always for general public (e.g. in Pennsylvania dash cam windshield mounts are only allowed for official police use, however it is still OK to mount it on the windshield as long as it does not block the view).

Out of 20 (39%) states where dash cam windshield mounts use is either banned or limited, only 6 states do not apply these restrictions to foreign vehicles (vehicles registered in other state or country). So even if your home state allows mounting dashboard camera on the windshield, you may be violating the law if you are traveling to another state.

While doing our research, we reviewed all traffic regulations in all 50 states and District of Columbia, and the outcome is available as a tool where you can check the legal status of dash cam’s windshield mount.

If your state allows mounting dash cams on the windshield, then there is no problem for you (however, make sure to check if your state really allows a dash cam). But what to do if your state does ban windshield mount? Check out our publication where we discuss your options.


• You cannot legally drive with a dash cam mounted on the windshield in many states.
• You can check if windshield mounts are allowed in your state here.
• If your state bans windshield mounts, read our publication to learn about your options.
• For complete list of restrictions by states, please refer to this article.

Privacy and Recording Laws

With your dash cam, you can record the conversation of your passengers or the people outside your car. It does not matter if you plan to delete these records at a later time (or if you actually deleted these records) – as soon as the recording has been made, you may be committing a criminal offense under federal or state law.

Difference Between Recording and Wiretapping

The fact that you record someone talking or doing something, can be considered either “recording”, or, depending on circumstances, a “wiretapping”.

While recording is legal when certain conditions are met (usually, if a person recorded is giving their consent), wiretapping is always illegal. This is why so important to understand the difference between recording and wiretapping.

Reel to reel tape recorder
Image by Alejandro Linares-Garcia licensed under CC-3.0 license

If you openly record a conversation, it is called recording, no matter if any parties involved have given their consent or not. But if recording is made by covert camera, and the people engaging in conversation are not aware of their talk being recorded – it is a wiretapping. By definition, wiretapping is an eavesdropping performed by use of electronic or mechanical device.

In public places, where people cannot reasonably expect having privacy – you can record video and audio without first announcing that you are recording. As long as you do not purposely target the conversation or people’s acts that cannot be normally seen or overheard, it is considered a recording, not a wiretapping, and does not even require consent of those being recorded.

The road is a public place, so whatever you catch on camera, this is still a recording and does not require a permission to be recorded. This is also applicable to private places visible from road. For example, if you are driving past someone’s home, it is still legal to record – even if your dash cam can captures the porch or the backyard, provided you are not entering the property without owner’s permission or do not park your car specifically to have a good view on their property.

Recording inside the car is a different story. A vehicle, except may be for public transportation, is a place where people do expect having privacy.

Although most people can recognize a camcorder, very few can tell if a tiny black device hanging on your windshield is actually a video-audio recorder. And in most cases they would not even notice it.

This means that if you do not explicitly point to your passengers that you have a recording device, it stays concealed. Which, in turn, means, that recordings made with hidden device are the products of wiretapping.

It does not matter if you did not intend to conceal your dash cam. If the people whose conversation is recorded are not aware of it, it is still concealed.

So the first thing you should do when passengers entering your car – is to tell them that you have a recording device. And not only tell, make them acknowledge that fact.

Once they understand that you have recording device and you may record them and their conversations, the recording is no longer can be considered a wiretapping.


• Wiretapping is an eavesdropping performed by use of electronic or mechanical device.
• When you openly record others, it is “recording”, otherwise it is “wiretapping”.
• While recording is legal when certain conditions are met, wiretapping is always illegal.

“One-Party Consent” and “Two-Party Consent” Laws

Recording conversations falls under federal and state recording laws. To legally record others, you need to either get their consent or to do recording in the public place and under conditions where normally people you record can be seen or easily overheard. Your car is a private place and to comply with recording laws, you must seek consent of your car’s occupants.

Federal law permits recording a conversation if at least one party consents (so called “one-party consent” law, see 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d) for details). The good thing about “one-party consent” law is that you are not required to seek others' consent to record as long as you are the party in conversation.

Most of the states and District of Columbia also adopted “one-party consent” laws, but 12 states require obtaining consent from all parties (“two-parties consent” law) before you can record a conversation. Even though it is called “two-parties consent” law, you must seek consent from all parties if there are more than two persons engaging in conversation.

The states with “two-party consent” law are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Although Hawaii recording law is generally a “one-party consent”, recording in private places (a car is also a private place) in Hawaii requires consent of all parties.

Also, even in the state that has “one-party consent” law, you cannot record a conversation in which you do not participate – without consent from at least one of conversation’s participants. For example, a taxi cab driver is usually not the party in the passengers’ conversation, even if the passengers are giving directions to the driver.


• To legally record a conversation, “one-party consent” law requires consent of a single person, “two-party consent” law requires consent of all people involved in conversation.
• Most states adopted “one-party consent” laws.
• 12 states have “two-party consent” law.

Asking Your Passengers’ Permission to Record

If your dash cam does not record your car’s interior, generally it is safe to mute the microphone to comply the recording laws even without passengers’ consent. However, if your camera also records what is inside, you have to disable both video and audio recordings or to seek everyone’s consent.

As a rule of thumb, when asking for consent, explicitly ask and get a confirmation from each and every person that rides in your car. This also applies to a person outside of your car who engages in conversation with you or your passengers.

Brigele California warning sticker

Do not rely on warning stickers that notify passengers that their conversation may be recorded. They could not see or even could not understand the text on the sticker. And even if they do see and understand the warning, it does not mean they are giving their consent. This also is true if you ask for consent but do not get a positive reply. Do ask for consent and do get affirmative response from all of your passengers, otherwise either disable recording or ask your passengers to refrain from riding your car.

Turn Off Recording if No Consent is Given

If you cannot possibly get the consent for recording, you have two options: either to ask those who do not agree with being recorded to leave your car, or to turn off recording.

If your passengers do not give their consent, and you don’t want them to step out of your car, it is wise to disable the recording or at least mute the microphone.

Sometimes, you simply cannot get consent from someone who is going to ride inside your car. For example, if you are giving the keys to your car to valet, you cannot have consent from the valet who returns your car: that might be not the same person who takes your car. This was a reason why Chevrolet had to disable “valet mode” for their 2015 Corvettes – in “valet mode” its built-in dash cam recorded video, audio and some telemetry.

Turning dash cam and sound off

If you need to only temporarily disable video recording, then you can stop recording by pressing a button on the dash cam. On most of the dash cams it is [OK] button. It will stop recording until next time engine starts.

However, if you need recording to be disabled after engine starts again, remove power cord or memory card from the dash cam.

Recording Police at Work

As of today, where is no simple answer to question: “can I record the police with dash cam?” Although many think that they have a right to record police carrying out their duties in public is guaranteed by First Amendment’s right of free speech – the courts are divided on this topic. Most of the courts recognize that recording the police during the public discharge of their duties is a right of U.S. citizens protected by First Amendment, but some still refuse to do so. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice expressed its opinion in the Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, which clearly reads that it’s United States’ position to “...affirmatively set forth the First Amendment right to record police activity.”

NYPD cars parked at Times Square, New York City

While open recording of police can be considered legal (some sources quote the exception of states of Illinois and Massachusetts where anti-wiretapping laws forbid filming the police), if you film with hidden camera, you still may be charged with felony wiretapping.

Your dash cam is usually not visible from outside of the car so, in certain cases, recording police with dash cam might be considered a wiretapping. This is not a case, though, when police is caught on your dash camera when you just passing by. But if you intentionally position your car to film the police, or somehow interfering with police operations, you might end up in trouble.

When you pulled over, police officer usually approaches your car and talks to you, the driver, through rolled down window. This conversation will be clearly heard on the recording made by your dash cam. However, it is unlikely that an officer would notice the camera – and unless you immediately notify the officer that you have a dash cam recording (or you turn your dash cam off), you may be considered wiretapping the officer with dire legal consequences.

This is especially important to understand if you somehow violate dash cam related laws, most commonly if you drive with windshield-mounted dash cam in a state that bans windshield mounts. You will basically have a choice to either disclose to the police that you violate traffic law (obviously, seems like a bad choice!), or to risk being charged with wiretapping (as a matter of fact, much worse situation). While having a dash cam illegally mounted on the windshield is usually an infraction (or misdemeanor at worst), wiretapping is always a felony.

So if you don’t want to draw officer’s attention to your dash cam, turn it off before the police approached your car.

However, if you choose to film your traffic stop, make sure you immediately notify the police that you are recording them. And then be prepared to not necessarily nice conversation. We advise you to read this excellent article by Steve Silverman on recording police if you choose to keep your dash cam recording.


• Generally, you may record police with your dash cam.
• During traffic stop, first of all let the police know that you may be recording them. This is to avoid wiretapping charges.
• If you don't want to draw police attention to your dash cam, stop recording before they approach your car.
• If you choose to record your traffic stops, read “7 Rules for Recording Police” by Steve Silverman.

Publishing Dash Cam Records

When you have some records from your dash cam, it is natural that you may want to share them over the Internet. But be aware that placing dash cam recording on the YouTube or any other web site may have some legal implications.

Editing dash cam video on computer

First, if your video can be deemed to be illegal, do not publish it.

In the case of video taken with dash cam, illegal means that people inside your car caught on video or heard talking either were unaware of you shooting them (it is a crime of wiretapping), or they did not give their consent to being recorded (unlawful recording).

However, if your video has people in the public setting, such as a street, there’s nothing wrong in not having everyone’s consent with your recording. Also you don’t need to retouch license plates to hide them.

Second, if the video discloses personal or private information, either remove such parts of the video, or do not publish it at all. For instance, your passengers may discuss someone’s personal details.

Personal or private information is the information was not previously publicly available and what may be offensive to the person, if published. Examples of private / personal information could be financial status, personal phone numbers, health issues, sexual experience and so on.

Also it is wise refrain from publishing videos where you or your passengers give abusive or obscene comments.

As a rule of thumb, consider that your video can become viral and be watched by very large audience. In that case it is quite probable that someone becomes upset enough to sue you.

Third, if you were driving on private property and filming it with dash cam, seek owner’s permission to publish such video. Also if people may have reasonable expectations of privacy while being on that property (e.g. guests and owners of a mansion), you must also seek consent with publishing the video from those who are clearly visible on your recording.


• Generally it is OK to publish your video on Internet.
• However, if your video can be deemed illegaly acquired (e.g. you don't have consent from your passengers whose voices are legible), never publish it.
• If your video somehow discloses personal or private information, don't publish it.
• As a rule of thumb, consider that your video can become viral and be watched by very large audience.


As a closing note on legal aspects of publishing your dash cam videos, we would like to mention that you, as camera owner, own copyright on the video.

No one may use, publish or otherwise distribute your video or its portions without your explicit permission – unless you willingly choose to license your video under less restrictive terms, such as Creative Commons license.

State-Specific Legal Requirements to Dash Cams

Some states have provisions in their road codes specifically for dash cams. Here is an overview of state-specific legislation.

Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin

Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin on map

These states normally disallow mounting objects on the windshield, but they make an exception for dash cams. A dash cam can be mounted slightly above, below or behind the rearview mirror or, if absent, where it would be normally located.

Note that Arizona also designates 7x7 in. and 5x5 in. areas in the lower corners of windshield (farthest removed from and nearest the driver, respectively) where any objects can be mounted. These areas not very good for dash cams, though.

More details about:



California on map

California is the only state where the use of dash cams is regulated. Additionally to placement requirements, there are certain legal requirements.

You can attach a dash cam in the lower corners and in the center topmost portion of the windshield. The latter position is the best suitable position, however rearview mirror, various car sensors or shade band could prevent the camera from fitting into small 5x5 in. square.

Also in California the vehicles equipped with dash cam are required to have a notice placed in conspicuous location that warns the passengers that their conversations may be recorded. We always include such stickers with all Brigele dash cams.

Importantly, California law requires the dash cams to store no more than 30 seconds of video footage before and after a crash. Although technically many dash cams allow to save a video shortly before and after impact sensor goes off or when the driver presses a button on the camera – this is not very reliable method of storing important data. In emergency situation the driver most probably would be too stressed to think about pressing any buttons, and the impact sensor may not detect the critical situation.

There’s a vague definition whether a dash cam can save the video continuously if operated by driver to monitor its performance. We believe that 1-minute interval is not enough to make any conclusions about driver’s performance. Hence if a dash cam is used for performance monitoring, it may record continuously.

We suggest that whenever you are discussing the purpose of using your dash cam with law enforcement officials, that you will always state that you are using the dash cam for monitoring driver’s performance.

And finally, in commercial vehicles, the dash cam can be mounted in different area: not more than 2 inches below the upper edge of an area swept by windshield wipers.


• You can only place your dash cam in tiny 5x5 in. square in the topmost center portion of the windshield.
• Unless your dash cam is used for “monitoring driver's performance”, it can legally record only 30 seconds before and after a triggering event (when a driver presses a button or impact sensor goes off).
• It is mandatory to have a notice warning your passengers that their conversation is being recorded.
• For commercial vehicles, a dash cam can be mounted not more than 2 in. below the upper edge of area swept by wipers.


Ohio on map

In Ohio, for personal vehicles, a dash cam (as well some other electronic devices such as GPS navigation) can be mounted anywhere on the windshield, provided it does not restrict driver’s view of the road and the signs, and if it does not conceal the VIN (vehicle identification number).

For commercial vehicles, such devices can only be mounted not more than 6 inches below the upper edge of the windshield and out of area swept by the wipers. This means that for commercial vehicles you cannot legally mount a dash cam on the windshield – as locating it out of area swept by wipers makes recording the video simply impossible.


Pennsylvania on map

In Pennsylvania you cannot place any objects on the windshield, side or rear windows, or hang them on the rearview mirror if they materially obstruct driver’s clear view of the road. We suggest that the dash cam can be safely located behind, slightly below or above the rearview mirror.

Also note that police in Pennsylvania are officially allowed to place their dash cams anywhere on the windshield. However, it does not allow you to do the same.

Written by Yury Galtykhin

Contact author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.