Should You Have a Dashcam?

Should You Have a Dashcam?

As camera technology has gotten cheaper and smaller, dashcams have exploded in popularity. Most law enforcement agencies have implemented programs that include dash cameras and body cameras, but what about the average citizen? Could a dashcam protect you from legal liability?

What is a dashcam?

A dashcam is a physical recorder that sits on your dashboard (or other areas of your car) and captures video of the area around your car. There two main types of dashcams. Those that record continually, even when your car is parked, and those that only record while your car is in motion. Dashcam prices range from very cheap to extremely expensive. More expensive cameras provide a better picture quality, which can sometimes make all the difference when determining who is at fault.

Why would I need a dashcam?

A dashcam can help establish your legal liability (if any) by providing footage of what really happened during an incident. More specifically:

Dashcam footage can protect you from legal liability when you aren’t at fault. For example, if you get into a fender bender with a person who ran a red light, they may try to claim that their light was green and you ran the red light. Having a dashcam recording prevents them from making this claim, or at least provides hard evidence of their falsehood once it reaches a judge.

Dashcam footage can also minimize your legal liability when you are at fault. For example, if you run a red light and hit a pedestrian, you will be at fault and liable. However, your dashcam video may show that the pedestrian was visibly intoxicated and stumbled into traffic without a crosswalk signal. This may be a mitigating factor that can lessen your legal liability.

In addition to limiting or eliminating your legal liability in accidents, dashcams can monitor your car while you are away from it. The footage can help identify anyone who hit or broke into your parked car. In many instances, having the dashcam itself in full view through your windshield is a deterrent for crime. Why break into a car with a camera when there are a dozen more in the parking lot without one?

Another reason people choose to install a dashcam is to help fight traffic-related criminal matters. If you are pulled over for a DUI, and your dashcam records that you were driving perfectly in the lines, it will help you rebut claims from a police officer who states you were swerving all over the road.

Is dashcam footage admissible in an Oklahoma Court?

Dashcam recordings are admissible in an Oklahoma court, with a caveat: You need someone to authenticate the document (video). This has to be someone with personal knowledge of the video - typically the person who purchased and installed the camera / was the owner of the vehicle.

Oklahoma is a one-party consent state when it comes to recording. This means that as long as one party has consented to the recording, you are allowed to take video in a public space. Since you are recording from a dashcam in your car, you are the individual consenting.

What are the laws regarding the installation of dashcams?

Oklahoma doesn’t have many laws regarding dashcams, but you cannot legally install one on your windshield, like in the picture below:

A windshield mounted dashcam
A windshield mounted dashcam

Most people choose to install the camera on the dash itself. While this is permissible under Oklahoma law, you must ensure that the camera does not obstruct any portion of the driver’s view.

What happens if I do not install my dash camera in accordance with Oklahoma law?

While it is doubtful that a court would prevent you from admitting the dashcam footage due to an incorrect installation of the camera, technically it could. Additionally, an incorrect installation serves as probable cause for an officer to pull you over. You could receive a ticket for having an obstructed view and be required to remove it, which would defeat the purpose of owning the dashcam.

Can my dashcam be used against me?

In some instances, yes. While you are not legally obligated to hand over your dashcam footage in the event of an accident, law enforcement could obtain a search warrant. Additionally, you could be subpoenaed by the court and forced to turn over your dashcam footage. It is important to note that if you are in an accident, you should take steps to preserve the dashcam footage, regardless of whether you intend to use it yourself. Disposing of it could open you up to causes of action for disposing of evidence.

Who should consider purchasing a dashcam?

There are obviously pros and cons to owning a dashcam. The pro is that you can protect yourself from legal liability with the dashcam footage, and the con is that you could be hurting your own case by being forced to turn over video evidence of your wrong doing. You could also be opening yourself up for additional liability if you fail to store the dashcam footage of an incident.

Generally, those who want a dashcam most are individuals with a commercial drivers license. When your job is on the line with the slightest of driving infractions, dashcam recordings can mean the difference between putting food on the table for your family and going without.

Anytime an accident involves a semi-truck, people are quick to blame the truck driver. Video can help protect commercial drivers from that liability, and serve as a security camera when they sleep in their trucks.

The Bottom Line

There are both pros and cons to owning a dashcam. While the footage can help mitigate liability, it can sometimes be used against you. It is up to you to determine whether you think the trade offs are worth it.