Dashboard Camera Legality and Privacy Laws: Is it Illegal to Use Dashcams in North America?

No, it is not illegal to use dashcams in the US and Canada. However, state, and provincial laws determine where to place one and who may use the footage.

Quick take:

  • Law enforcement in North America encourages dashcam usage.
  • The court may use dashcam footage against you.
  • Law enforcement may legally prevent you from filming if your actions interfere with their work. But they will need a warrant to view or confiscate your footage if there is no evidence of a crime.

Lawsuits, insurance claims, pedestrian hits, accidents, traffic fraud, may happen at any time. To mitigate the fallout that might result from, say, hitting another vehicle or a person. You need documentary evidence. Installing a dashcam in your vehicle will provide all the proof you need to determine who is at fault. While legal in all states, where you place the dashcam may be a violation of state law. For example, in Missouri or North Carolina, you may place your dashcam on your dashboard or windshield.

Obstruction of view is a violation of dashcam laws in many states for obvious reasons. So, if you are planning to cross state lines, we recommend placing your dashcam on the dashboard or somewhere where it does not obstruct your view of the road.

Legal Placement of Dashcam

Windshield Obstruction laws vary by state, but the general principle is the same, thus, quoting 346 88(3)(b), 2011 Wisconsin code Chapter 3 “no person shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway with any object so placed or suspended in or upon the vehicle to obstruct the driver’s clear view through the front windshield.”

What to remember

  • Your dashcam should not obscure more than a seven-inch square on the passenger side or a five-inch square on the driver’s side.
  • If the dashcam obscures your view, any evidence collected from it may not be admissible in court.
  • The police may fine you if a dashcam or other item obstructs your front or back view.
  • The court may use your dashcam footage against you.
  • If a dashcam obstructs your view, a police officer may slap you with a fine.

Can Dashcam Footage be used Against You?

Yes, courts may use dashcam footage against you in all states. But there is the issue of consent. In states including Oregon, New Hampshire, Washington, Vermont, Montana, Illinois, Florida, California, and Delaware, all parties must consent to audio recording.

What do I mean?

Privacy and wiretapping laws in your state may prevent the admission of dashcam footage from being used in legal matters. For example, if the dashcam records audio and you do not have the consent of a passenger or someone outside the vehicle to record audio. The footage may not be admissible.

What you need to know about video consent laws

  • In most states, video recording is legal with or without consent.
  • Audio recording without consent has stricter policies and may have stricter local laws.
  • Sixteen states, including the ones listed, require two-party or all-party consent to record audio.
  • The use of audio and visual recording devices varies by state. Contact a local sheriff or a traffic lawyer if you need area-specific laws.

Dashcam Invasion of Privacy

As mentioned, privacy laws in some states require you to tell all parties involved that you are recording them. If you do not, you may face wiretapping charges. However, the law allows you to record in any public space where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

That means it is legal to record in highways, roads, or other public spaces. What about private residences?

Reasonable expectation of privacy

When you park your car at a private residence, it is advisable to turn off your dashcam. Under U.S. Common Law, intrusion on seclusion is one of the four privacy laws. The law says filming someone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy is a crime. For example, if your dashcam records someone at a private residence sunbathing nude, that may be a violation of the law if you purposefully aimed the camera at that person. 

What to remember:

  • There is less legal red tape if your camera does not record audio, this is especially true in two party consent states.
  • Avoid filming and recording audio in private spaces.
  • Passengers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your vehicle. If you have an audio recorder or camera, inform them.
  • On private property, you must obey the owner’s requirements.
  • Police do not have the authority to prevent you from recording video or taking pictures.
  • If filming interferes with law enforcement operations, a police officer may order you to cease or arrest you. Although this typically pertains to actively interefering with police work and is most definitely a reach with a dashcam in place.
  • Police cannot legally confiscate or view your videos or photos without a warrant.
  • You may record audio during a police traffic stop.
  • Unless there is evidence of a crime, law enforcement cannot take your dashcam footage without consent or using force.

According to the GSA’s “Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property, section 41CFR 102-74-420, you may take photos of

“(a) space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned; (b) space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with the written permission of an authorized officer of the occupying agency concerned; (c) building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridor or auditoriums for news purposes.”

It is also worth mentioning that according to the US Department of Homeland security, “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” it is okay to photograph federal properties from publicly accessible spaces.

What About Radar Jammers and Detectors

Excluding Virginia and Washington DC, placing a radar detector in your car is legal. But as mentioned, the item should not obstruct your view of the road. Radar jammers are illegal because they interfere with police radar preventing officers from detecting your speed.

What to remember:

  • Using a radar jammer is a federal offense.
  • Your dashcam filming a federal building is not illegal unless there is a reasonable suspicion of probable cause.
  • Installing a radar detector is not illegal in most states.

View our page on windshield mounting restrictions by state.

What is vital to remember is dashcam laws change depending on your location. Therefore, contact local law enforcement or a traffic lawyer if you need any clarification about the laws in your area.

Are dashcams legal in Canada?

Just like in the US, mounting a dashcam in your vehicle is not illegal in Canada. However, privacy laws require you to stop filming while on private property or to seek permission. If you are in Canada, this is what you need to remember:

  • Local law enforcement encourages drivers to have a dashcam.
  • Dashcam footage is admissible in court and may save you from higher insurance premiums.
  • The law requires that you have a 180-degree view -unobstructed by a dashcam, or any other gadget.
  • Excluding Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, installing a radar detector is illegal in Canada (avoid dashcams with speed radar).

Based on all that, we recommend a discreet dashcam model that does not record audio.

How do I Choose a Good Dashcam?

Considering the legal requirements of mounting a dashcam, here is how to pick the right one.

Your first consideration when buying a dashcam should be night vision. Why? According to traffic data in the US and Canada, many accidents and crimes on the road happen at night. Good night vision will guarantee that everything that happens goes on the record. We recommend any dashcam with Sony Night Vision.

Go online, read reviews, or get recommendations from friends and family. That said. If you are on the hunt for a dashboard in North America, below is what to look for:

Essential features:

  • Event tagging and impact detection: found in premium models. Impact and motion detection automatically trigger when internal motion detection and G-sensor are disturbed by movement. Turn on the impact or motion detection feature when you park the car. Some models call this feature “parking mode.”
  • Supercapacitor: Unlike batteries, supercapacitors do not lose their ability to store energy, making them durable and more reliable than battery-powered dashcams.
  • Speed logging and GPS: It Will help to pinpoint your location at the time of the incident.
  • Auto start and loop recording

What dashcam to buy (Updated 2022)

Dashcams have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. While any dashcam is better than no dashcam, when you’re purchasing a new one you should try to get one with the following features.

We recommend:

  • At least 1080P recording: the higher the resolution, the better the quality.
  • Night vision.
  • 24-hour parked car monitoring.
  • Multiple cameras.
  • At least 32 GB storage space: thirty-two gigabytes is enough to store twelve hours of recorded footage.
  • Smartphone or internet function: connecting to your phone, internet or other devices will allow you to transfer footage as a backup.
  • Mounting options: this will determine where you may place the camera. The options are suction cups or a semi-permanent adhesive mount. We recommend the former because it’s easier to move.

Our recommended dashcam for 2022 is this model from Vantrue. It is a step up from most other dash cams with advanced crispness (2160p – 4K/UHD), night vision, GPS tracking, 3 cameras, an always on parked-car monitoring system (3 cameras), and it is much more affordable than it’s nearest competitors.

Overall, law enforcement in North America encourages vehicle owners to install dash cams. However, placement matters, so ensure that the item does not interfere with your view of the road. Also, if the dashcam has an audio function, the law in most states requires you to inform passengers in the vehicle.

 Violating privacy laws may land you into legal problems, so avoid filming private residences without consent, do not upload dashboard footage taken in private spaces without consent. And make sure that your dashboard has quality night vision because many accidents happen at night.

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