Using a dash cam is definitely not a fad anymore, but a worldwide trend. Dashboard cameras are extremely useful to modern drivers, coming with a plethora of benefits. Buying a car dashboard camera is definitely a smart thing to do. However, before purchasing one of these devices, it is imperative to discover are dash cams legal in the USA and in particular your state or region.
Even thought dashboard camcorders are legal in most states, there are still two important aspects to consider when talking about dashcam legality in 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. Therefore, 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 dash cam 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 on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website.
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. This is especially true as most dash cams can’t record external audio, only internal, which is from inside the vehicle.
Due to the electronic surveillance law, dashcams are illegal in Switzerland. However, they are perfectly legal in Australia and 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 dashcam. 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 dashcams 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 that others, while others do not have any sort of windshield obscuring restrictions.
US State Law
Take a look at the image opposite.
- States with red prohibit windshield mounts
- States with green allow windshield mounts
- Those in yellow let you put your dash cam on the windshield with a few exceptions.
At the POI Factory Website, there is a comprehensive guide that helps you see for yourself if your state allows windshield mounts.
What Are The Alternatives?
However, even though your state restrict placement of dash cams on the windshield, you can buy a platform such as Mini 3M Double-Sided Adhesive DashBoard Mount Holder for Car DVR Camera. It attaches the dash cam to the dashboard. This way, you will be able to record seamlessly without breaking the law.