Dear Lifehacker, I was wondering what the legalities of using a dashcam are. They are great for recording incidents for insurance to prove something wasn't your fault. But how do they stand up in court if you use it to contest a speeding fine? And can the police use your existing footage to fine you further?
For example, if I accidentally was speeding three hours prior and the camera recorded my speed and location, can they issue a fine for that, or even go through the footage? Thanks, Dashed If I Know
Speeding picture from Shutterstock
In the majority of circumstances, car cameras are perfectly legal to use in Australia. The only real exception is if you use it to record a private act (such as inside a garage or building). Naturally, you also need to ensure that the cam doesn't obstruct your vision and adhere to the same GPS/phone mount rules that apply in your state. Basically, this amounts to not fiddling with the device while driving.
As far as we know, there's nothing stopping you from submitting dashcam footage as supporting evidence if you wish to contest a speeding fine. After all, the whole point of a dashboard camera is to provide an unbiased record of an incident. Whether your untested device will find favour in court over official police equipment is another matter, however.
There's also the problem of retaining your footage -- speeding fines often take a couple of weeks to reach the driver, by which time you may have recorded over the relevant date and time. It's therefore a good idea to retain copies of your car footage for at least a month or two.
In regards to the second part of your question, I've never heard of an incident where police went through a civilian's dashcam footage in the off-chance of finding a driving offense. The police generally don't have time to sift through hours of random video if there's no compelling evidence of a crime.
That's not to say it could never happen though. We'd advise using the "I've already wiped it" excuse if the police ever requested your dashcam footage and you have reason to feel nervous.
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