Using a dashboard camera is definitely not a fad anymore, but a worldwide trend. Dash cameras are extremely useful to modern drivers, coming with a plethora of benefits. Buying a dashcam is definitely a smart thing to do. However, before purchasing one of these devices, it is imperative to discover if the dashboard camera is legal in your state or region.
Even though the dashboard camera is legal in most states, there are still two important aspects to consider when talking about dash cam legality in the USA. The first one is related to electronic surveillance and the second one deals with vision obstruction through the windshield.
Because each different state has different policies to deal with these two issues, it is important to verify the letter of the law in your area before you get behind the wheel and hit the road with your dashboard camera rolling.
The first issue that comes into play when it comes to electronic surveillance is audio recording. 38 states permit audio recording if one party consents. However, 12 states require the consent of both parties before recording a conversation. Some of these states are California, Florida, Illinois, Montana, and Washington. You can see the full list here: http://www.rcfp.org/rcfp/orders/docs/RECORDING.pdf.
This audio recording law does not apply to dash cams unless a conversation is recorded. However, in case that conversation can be used in the court to determine the guilt of a party, the law is made void in the 12 states. Recording with audio should not be a problem, especially as most dash cams can’t record external audio, only internal, which is from inside the vehicle.
Due to the electronic surveillance law, the dashboard camera is illegal in Switzerland. However, they are perfectly legal in Australia and the USA. You can record your drive, but be wary that your recording can be used by the police if it leads to finding a suspect or solving a crime.
The Legality Of Vision Obstruction
This is probably the biggest legal issue you have to deal with when buying a dash cam. Most dashboard cameras do not attach to your dashboard, but to the windshield. The reason why this aspect is important is that many states and jurisdictions put a huge emphasis on how much of the windshield can be obscured by devices such as dashboard cameras or GPS units.
As a rule of thumb, if your dashboard camera obscures more than a 7-inch square area on the passenger’s side or a 5-inch square area on the drivers’ side, you might have some legal issues. Of course, some states have tighter restrictions than others, while others do not have any sort of windshield obscuring restrictions.
In the following image, the states with red prohibit windshield mounts, states with green allow windshield mounts, and those in yellow let you put your dash cam on the windshield with a few exceptions. Here is a comprehensive guide that helps you see for yourself if your state allows windshield mounts: http://www.poi-factory.com/node/34521.
However, even though your state restricts the placement of the dashboard camera on the windshield, you can buy a DURAGADGET bean bag to attach the dash cam to the dashboard. This way, you will be able to record seamlessly without breaking the law.