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What You Need to Know Before Using a Dashcam in Colorado

by  on  Car Accidents & Motor Vehicle Collisions

Many people now choose to mount dashcams in their cars to record the view through the windshield automatically. These cameras can provide valuable evidence if the vehicle is involved in a collision or damaged by vandalism. But people often install dashcams without investigating the legality of their placement or use. Before using a dashcam in Colorado, it is a good idea to understand the basic legal requirements for dashcams.

The Term “Dashcam” Can Refer to Different Types of Equipment

What people refer to as a dashboard camera or dashcam is often not mounted on the dashboard at all but on the windshield or elsewhere in a vehicle. The term refers to a camera that digitally records images continuously through the windshield while the vehicle is in motion or whenever it is turned on. Sometimes called a driving recorder or event data recorder, these onboard cameras can be equipped to record images from inside the vehicle or through additional windows. Some are also equipped to send video and photo images to other locations.

In addition, certain recorders also keep track of vehicle speed, GPS data, steering angle, and acceleration and deceleration.

Dashcams are usually mounted on the interior of the windshield, clipped to the rearview mirror, or attached to the dashboard by adhesive or suction mount. The placement of the camera affects not only its ability to record accurate data but also its safety and legality.

Are Dashcams Legal in Colorado?

Colorado statutes do not prohibit the use of dashcams specifically. However, vehicle and traffic laws do prohibit the use of materials that obstruct the windshield and those that could reflect sunlight or glare toward other vehicles. Therefore, if the camera has a reflective casing or is placed in a way that blocks a driver’s view, it could be considered in violation of Colorado Rev. Stat. §42-4-227.

In addition to Colorado state laws, drivers also need to be aware of the requirements of local jurisdictions. For example, Denver Ordinance 54-124 requires the driver’s vision through the windshield and all windows to be “normal and unobstructed,” so a dashcam mounted in a way that could be considered to block the driver’s view might be treated as a violation. If you’re driving in another state, you also need to be aware of the details of their regulations. The bottom line is that it is very important to pay attention to the placement of a dashcam for your own safety as well as to avoid a traffic violation. In addition, if a camera was found to be placed in a way that blocks your view, it is possible that it could impact your liability for an accident.

Using Dashcam Footage as Evidence After an Accident

It can be difficult to know exactly what happened in a car accident, even a head-on collision where the other vehicle should be visible because of the frontal approach. Footage from a dashcam can show the approach of vehicles prior to the collision and the way the impact affected the vehicle and occupants. If an approaching vehicle failed to yield or drove aggressively, those actions may be obvious in the footage from the dashcam. 

Recorded video images from a dashcam could also show whether hazards on the roadway or inclement weather affected the driving conditions. If a driver responsible leaves the scene without providing information, data from the dashcam could be used to identify the hit-and-run driver.

Dashcam footage can be admitted as evidence in a car accident lawsuit or to support a claim submitted through an insurance company. Camera footage records detail that may be missed by witnesses and it preserves that information in a format that is very difficult to refute. This makes dashcam footage very valuable after an accident.

Can the Police Take Your Camera or Your Recordings?

Since dashcams are not illegal in Colorado, police have no reasonable grounds to take away a dashcam. Even if the camera is found to obstruct the driver’s view, the penalty for that offense would be issuing a traffic citation.

If the police want to see the footage you have recorded on your dashcam, however, they can legally request it. To do so, they would issue a subpoena for the images or the camera itself, and the owner of the vehicle would need to comply with the request. A subpoena is a court order, and failure to follow a court order results in serious penalties. If the police make an informal request without a subpoena and you don’t want to turn over the footage, your lawyer might advise you to make them obtain a subpoena. It is possible the court could deny the request. However, no one should delete images from the camera because that could be considered to be interference with a police investigation and could subject you to criminal penalties.

If you are concerned that images on your dashcam could cause problems if viewed by the police, it is a good idea to consult an attorney as soon as possible to review your options. It may be possible to restrict the images that the police are allowed to acquire or take other steps to protect your rights.

When Used Properly, a Dashcam Can Help You Recover Damages After an Accident

Dashcams can provide valuable evidence to support your claim for damages after an auto accident. Whether you are seeking recovery through an insurer or filing a claim in court, video recordings persuasively demonstrate what actually occurred before and during the accident.

However, you need to be careful when installing a dashcam so that it does not block your view and potentially cause an accident or give the police a reason to issue a traffic citation. Many people recommend installing the camera directly behind the rearview mirror, but be sure to check the visibility from the driver’s seat before mounting the camera in any location.

If you need help using or protecting your dashcam images after an accident, the experienced team at Levine Law is ready to assist. We protect car accident victims and work to ensure that you receive the compensation you need to move forward. To learn more about the many ways we can help, contact us today.