Understanding the Michigan Dash Cam Law
MCL 257.709(1)(c) of the Michigan Vehicle Code, or the Michigan Dashboard Camera Law, regulates the use of dash cameras in vehicles.
The law specifically addresses where you can install dash cams as well as the recording, storage, and sharing of footage.
What Are Dashboard Cameras, and How Do They Work?
Dashboard cameras, more popularly known as dash cams, are small video recording devices that are typically mounted on the dashboard or windshield of a vehicle.
They are designed to capture a continuous or intermittent video feed of the road and surroundings while the vehicle is in motion or parked.
Why Would You Need a Dash Cam?
Dash cams have gained popularity as a means to enhance driver safety, document road trips, prove liability in an auto accident, and provide evidence of vandalism or theft in parking lots and hit-and-runs, road rage, or aggressive driving on the road.
Public utility and ride share drivers may also use dash cams to record interactions with passengers and ensure safety and security.
In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who have installed dash cams since footage from the motor vehicle could help resolve claims faster and more accurately.
Types of Dash Cams
These devices are often classified according to how you mount dash cams.
- Front-facing dash cams: These dash cams are mounted on the windshield, facing forward to record the road ahead. They capture footage of traffic, road conditions, and potential incidents in front of the driver.
- Side dash cams: These dash cameras are mounted near the side mirrors of a vehicle to capture events happening alongside the vehicle. Side dash cams can be beneficial for monitoring lane changes, parking in tight spaces, and pedestrians or cyclists passing by.
- Interior dash cams: These are designed to record what’s happening inside the vehicle. They can be useful for rideshare drivers, parents of teenage drivers, or anyone who wants to monitor the behavior of vehicle occupants.
- Fleet dash cams: Fleet dash cams are installed on a fleet of commercial vehicles such as taxi services and delivery trucks. These dash cameras often include features like GPS tracking, real-time monitoring, and cloud storage to help fleet managers keep track of their drivers.
Are Dash Cams Legal in Michigan?
According to Michigan motor vehicle laws, dash cams are legal but:
- You are not allowed to mount dash cams on windshields as they can obstruct the driver’s view of the road.
- You can install dash cameras on the windshield of buses, truck tractors, hazardous waste trucks, and vehicles with a gross weight above 10,000 pounds.
- If your dash cams record audio, you should seek consent from everyone in the vehicle before recording their voices.
How to Legally Use Dash Cams
Familiarize yourself with the dash cam laws in your jurisdiction.
To respect the privacy of others, avoid recording on private property, residential buildings, and inside other vehicles.
Mount your dash cam where it doesn’t interfere with your vehicle’s airbags, sensors, and other safety equipment. The camera should also NOT distract you from your primary task of driving safely.
Guidelines When You Install Dash Cams
Properly installing dash cams is essential for their effectiveness and your safety. Here are some guidelines for dash cam placement:
- Mounting: Install the camera using the provided adhesive or suction cup mount. The dash cam should be securely attached and stable during driving.
- Driver’s View: Place dash cams where they do not obstruct the driver’s view of the road. It should not block the driver’s line of sight or the view of traffic lights and road signs.
- Dash cam placement: Mount the dash cam behind the rearview mirror, preferably where the tinted strip along the top of the windshield ends. This location minimizes obstruction and provides a clear view.
- Wiring: Route the power cable neatly along the windshield’s edge or interior panels, without loose wires that could become entangled with controls.
- Side or rear windows: Do not install dashboard cameras on side windows or side mirrors. There are side-specific cams for this purpose.
- Reflection and glare: Be mindful of potential glare or reflections caused by the dash cam in certain lighting conditions. Adjust the angle or use an anti-glare film if necessary.
Is Dash Camera Footage Admissible in Court?
Dash camera footage can be admissible as evidence in court, but several factors will influence the weight it holds as evidence.
- Relevance: Dashcam footage should be relevant to the case at hand.
- Authenticity: The party presenting the footage as evidence must prove that the video is authentic and has not been tampered with.
- Foundation: The party presenting the footage as evidence needs to lay the foundation for its admissibility, including establishing how the camera works, how the recording was made, and how the data is stored.
- Contradiction and corroboration: Dashcam footage can be used to either corroborate or contradict other evidence or witness testimony. Its value lies in providing an unbiased visual record of events.
- Expert testimony: In some cases, the court may require an expert to testify about the reliability of the dashcam’s technology, the accuracy of the recording, and the conditions under which the footage was captured.
- Chain of custody: Establishing a proper chain of custody for the dash cam and its recording is vital.
- Privacy: The court may exclude dashcam footage if it invades someone’s privacy or if the footage was obtained illegally or violates privacy laws.
- Hearsay: Dashcam footage might be considered hearsay if it is being offered as proof of truth, e.g., that the driver was at fault.
While dash cam footage can be valuable evidence, its admissibility is not always guaranteed. If you intend to use dash cam footage in a legal proceeding, consult with your lawyer.
Can the Police Force You to Turn Over Your Dashcam Footage?
It depends on the legal jurisdiction you’re in and the specific circumstances of the situation.
Here are some general considerations:
- Search warrants: If the police believe your dash cam has recorded a crime and they have obtained a search warrant, you have no choice but to surrender the recording.
- Voluntary cooperation: You may also voluntarily submit your dashcam footage to law enforcement if you believe it can help with an investigation or if required by law.
- Criminal investigations: If you are involved in an incident that is under criminal investigation, the police might request your dash camera footage to gather evidence. The extent to which they can compel you to provide it without a search warrant will depend on state law.
If you need clarifications about your legal obligations, consulting a car accident attorney can guide you on how to proceed while protecting your rights.
Injured in a Car Crash and Have Dash Cam Footage? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today.
As dashboard cams become more common, it is crucial to understand their usage, admissibility in court, and privacy implications so you can protect your rights.
A personal injury attorney from The Clark Law Office can provide sound legal advice and representation for cases involving car accidents and personal injuries in Michigan. Call us today at (517) 347 6900 for a free consultation!
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