Can I use my dashcam video in court?

Published: Apr. 19, 2018 at 5:14 PM EDT
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Whether its on police shows, reality television or tabloids, Americans have probably seen dashboard video footage from law enforcement; however, some may have questions about the legality of civilian dashcams in personal vehicles.

Melanie Wilson of University of Tennessee's Law School said personal dashcam footage is legal to record, and it could even be used as official evidence in the case of something going wrong on the road.

"It's like someone taking a video with their phones," said Wilson, who is the dean of University of Tennessee's Law School.

Formerly a federal prosecutor, Wilson said dashcam video can be used as evidence in court.

"As long as the person who wants to use the video at trial or in court can explain why it has something to do with the trial or issue in the case, they typically can use it," Wilson said.

If you want to use dashcam video in regards to legal matters, however, some important rules apply.

"They need to establish that the video is actually what they say it is, so if it's a video of a traffic incident, it has to be that traffic incident," Wilson said.

The dashcam video must also be raw footage that hasn't been changed or altered in any way.

"In general, if you can show the video has some value to the case that's going on and it is authentic, meaning you haven't altered it in some way, you haven't changed it, then typically the judge will let you use it," Wilson said.

Even if you follow all these rules, Wilson said the judge still could decide not to use it, especially if the video involves a conversation.

"If there's a portion where someone is talking about something that they don't know firsthand, the judge may omit that portion," Wilson said.

Wilson suggested that anyone who captures something illegal on their dashcam should bring it to law enforcement so that they can determine the legality of what the video contains.