United States Laws on Using Dash Cams
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
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
• 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
Difference Between Recording and 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
• 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
Turn Off Recording if No Consent is Given
Recording Police at Work
• 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
• 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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.