Can police seize your dashcam and helmet camera footage?
A lot of forums and chat pages carry misinformation on whether police can seize your dashcam. We take a look at what the law says.
Biker & Bike’s Facebook Page recently featured a video of a biker allegedly recording themselves travelling at over 100mph on country roads. Over two million people saw the video so there’s a good chance you’ll have watched the rider narrowly avoid running into a truck at 70mph.
There’s a good chance the police saw it too. We don’t know if they have subsequently caught up with the rider but if they had witnessed his riding on the day, would they have been able to view and confiscate his camera, with a view to using it in a prosecution?
The answer lies in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1982, the legislation which gives police officers their powers. Under Section 19 of the Act, the police CAN seize your equipment if they think it has recorded an offence.
PACE gives powers to an officer to seize anything on a premise (under Section 23 of PACE, vehicles are classed as a premises) if he has reason to believe it is evidence in relation to an offence.
From Section 19 of PACE:
(3)The constable may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing—
(a)that it is evidence in relation to an offence which he is investigating or any other offence; and
(b)that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed.
(4)The constable may require any information which is stored in any electronic form and is accessible from the premises to be produced in a form in which it can be taken away and in which it is visible and legible or from which it can readily be produced in a visible and legible form if he has reasonable grounds for believing—
(i)it is evidence in relation to an offence which he is investigating or any other offence; or
(ii)it has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence; and
(b)that it is necessary to do so in order to prevent it being concealed, lost, tampered with or destroyed.
What about helmet cams?
When the camera is attached to you and not the vehicle, the police still have the power to seize the equipment, without a warrant, under Section 19 of PACE.
So, as long as an officer has reason to believe you have committed an offence they can take away any recording equipment that may be used as evidence, to later use in court against you.
It’s not worth kicking up a fuss, either. Under Section 117 of PACE and officer can use ‘reasonable and necessary force’ to take the device from you, so any attempt to prevent them taking the camera isn’t going to work.
Can it be used as evidence?
Yes. Although your camera is not type approved or calibrated, as road safety and police speed-recording cameras have to be, footage has been used in prosecutions as far back as 2015. For serious offences, forensic techniques can be used to determine the vehicle’s speed, without the need for GPS or calibrated speed readings.
This means the footage does not necessarily need to display the speedometer to show you were speeding if that is the offence the officer thinks you have committed.
More worryingly, police have started to use other road user’s dashcams in prosecutions, mainly for Dangerous Driving. A number of forces have gone so far as to set up websites that make it easier for members of the public to upload evidence of offences.
Whether your footage will lead to a successful prosecution is entirely open to question. If you have had your camera seized as a result of the police believing an offence has been committed, speak to a specialist solicitor.
Make sure you get a receipt
Once a camera has been taken from you, your next concern is making sure you get your camera back afterwards. You might also be worried about losing any images and other footage on the camera (or smartphone, as that can be seized too).
If the camera is removable, the officer will almost certainly want to take the device there and then, to prevent tampering with the footage or the incriminating footage being deleted.
You must get a receipt and on it you should have the officer confirm their name, rank and station, plus the make, model and serial number of your device. You should also ask them to note the number of image files stored on the device.
You might be able to get them to seize the memory card only, but they have the right to take the whole device.
It’s worth saying that police are unlikely to seize your camera for relatively minor offences. They still need to prove your speed in court, which can be a complicated matter. It’s only for very serious offences, where dangerous driving or speeds in excess of 100 mph are involved, that police will resort to confiscating your kit.
Also useful to know:
Know when you can legally touch your device when you are on your bike.
Like all of our content, this article should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with your own solicitor before acting on any of the above.