A police officer can save your life. They can catch criminals, break up fights, and bust meth labs to make the world a safer place. Most of them care about their fellow humans enough to put their life on the line to help keep our society civil. Unfortunately, they’re all human, just like the rest of us. No matter how incredible their job, police are people, and they make mistakes. That means they have all the same flaws, but a whole lot more power.
If you have power and abusive nature, it’s a bad combination that can go horrifically wrong. Corrupt cops aren’t just a stereotype. They’re a genuine problem. Fortunately, they may be powerful, but their authority isn’t limitless. Even police can get arrested if they do something wrong. As a responsible citizen, you can do your part to help prevent police abuses. Installing a great dash cam to keep a record of police stops is one way you can be a part of positive changes.
Are Dash Cams Legal
For those of you who read our articles here at Catch Cheaters Fast as soon as they come out, you know cameras can be a somewhat tricky topic. Recording people when they have the expectation of privacy is a big no-no that can land you serious jail time and massive fines. That seems like a risky proposition unless you live somewhere like California where catching a crime on tape is pretty much always allowed.
Can you even take your dashcam footage to court? You bet you can! Roads and highways are public property so that anyone can use them. No one driving down an open road has any reason to expect privacy. Simply put, they’re already in public. Using your dashboard camera to record police, or anything else going on out in the open is entirely legal. Moreover, it’s a smart move.
To be fair to our international readers, we should mention that this isn’t universally true. As long as you’re in the USA or Australia, for example, you can record anything you like with a dashcam. Most of these devices either lack audio recording, or are designed to record inside the car, so you avoid wiretapping issues. If you’re in doubt, buy the kind that either lets you turn sound recording off, or has none in the first place.
Other countries have different laws. Switzerland notably forbids the use of dashcams. If you aren’t in the US or Australia, you may want to check your local laws before you install a camera that could get you into serious trouble.
But Wait, There’s More
There are some specifics to legal dashcams. How you mount, it matters. There are at least twenty-five states that prohibit windshield mounting. This doesn’t mean you have to lose the camera. It just means you have to attach it to the dash itself instead of the window. Some states have a limit on how much of the driver or passenger side windshield can be obstructed.
Generally speaking, if you limit your ‘obstruction’ to less than five square inches, you should be just fine. However, I’m not a lawyer in any state, let alone yours, so always double check. There are plenty of shapes, sizes, and configurations to choose from. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a dash cam that’s legal for you.
Another Important Note
I would never imply that you intend to do anything unsafe or illegal in your vehicle. However, if you do and your dashcam sees (or hears) it, you could be in trouble. Everything in a recording is included. You don’t get to edit what you don’t like.
If you happen to be stopped for some alleged violation and an officer sees that you have a dash camera, they can probably impound the footage on the spot to prove you broke the law. “I didn’t know police could do that,” is not a valid argument in court. Always remember the law goes both ways.
Will My Dashcam Work When the Car Is Off
The answer to this question depends mostly on how it’s wired to work. A standard dashboard camera runs off a cigarette lighter adapter. These will not run when the car is turned off. It’s a safety feature. You can get a cool adapter to hardwire your camera directly into your car’s battery if you prefer to leave yours on all the time.
As long as your dashcam is set up with the right modes, it can double as car security and record while you’re away. This is particularly useful if you leave your car in a high-risk area, like a bad neighborhood, or an unattended parking lot. Likewise, if you live in an area with a lot of automobile crime, it might help you deter or even catch a car thief or vandal.
Can a Dashcam Drain My Battery
Again, this depends on the setup. The lighter adapter cord shouldn’t drain any power when the car is off. You can tell if the dashcam doesn’t show it’s charging or power on once you remove your key. Conversely, a hardwired dashcam is almost always drawing power. You can get models that are designed to prevent battery drain.
If you plan to park in an airport parking lot, or you live somewhere like New York City where you may not often drive, then this could result in a dead battery. While dashcams don’t draw a ton of power, they still need some to function. Over time, this means using up the charge in your battery.
Take a better-safe-than-sorry approach if you’re not sure. Contact the seller or manufacturer for information before you just cross your fingers and hope things turn out fine. An educated consumer is a smart consumer who knows their equipment limitations.
What is Sentry Mode
Also known as Parking Mode, Sentry Mode in a dashcam is a useful security feature. It’s sometimes called Surveillance Mode or 360-Degree Surveillance. They all mean the same thing, a dashcam that records while you’re away.
Well designed dashcams may only record if you tell them to do so, or when they detect motion. Always read your manual and check the specifications on your particular model before you assume what it will do and when. If you park somewhere busy, you may not want a motion sensor triggered dashcam.
Can I use Batteries Instead
You certainly can. Though not all dashboard cameras are compatible with a battery pack, most are. It’s not hard to find an independent power source for your dashcam, plus it’s a good idea to have one around ‘just in case.’
Limits to Police Power
“The conservation of private rights is attained by the imposition of a
wholesome restraint upon their exercise, such a restraint as will prevent the infliction of injury upon others in the enjoyment of them… The power of the government to impose this restraint is called Police Power.”
-Randy E. Barnett from the Notre Dame Law Review
Police have a lot of power, but it’s not unlimited. Most of the time, police need a warrant or an excellent reason to enter private property. This includes everything from land to cars and even pockets in a broad sense.
Officers cannot merely stop anyone for no reason. Most of the time, they need to exercise due caution in handling people’s bodies and property. For example, they can’t ‘beat you up,’ unless causing harm is the only and final way (short of killing you) to stop you from damaging them, other people, or property. Typically that means they’ll do their best to restrain you.
The extent to which this is enforced obviously varies a great deal. Sometimes those in a position of power abuse their authority. That’s precisely why dashcams for police and citizens are essential. Valid documentation of what happens is the best way to show who behaved properly and who did not.
Where Do Police Get Their Power
I would love to say something funny like nuclear mosquitoes give the police their powers, but in reality, it comes from two places. First and foremost, police get their powers from the constitution. Specifically, the Tenth Amendment gives the states the right and responsibility to handle those things not covered by the federal government. One of those ‘things,’ is the establishment of a police force to protect the citizens and enforce the laws.
The second place they get their ‘powers,’ is from their training and certification. You aren’t born knowing proper legal procedures for booking a perpetrator, or how to handle all that gear they carry on their belts. Whether you consider Police to be local city officers or include Sheriffs as well, they all have to be taught to do the job.
Police attend various police academies. They have to pass physical and psychological tests. They also have to display an understanding of the equipment, learn to handle their vehicles, learn the codes used on the radio, and a plethora of other information and skills.
What You Can Do if You Get Stopped
Always double check your local laws, and ask a lawyer if you’re uncertain about something. Please remember that we at CCF are not legal representatives and cannot give you legal advice. I only write about these issues.
- Pull over as far as you can. Try to provide the officer with plenty of room to reach you safely.
- Keep your hands where they can see them.
- Ask why you were stopped if they don’t tell you immediately.
- Remember that you have the right to remain silent before you’re arrested, not just afterward. You do not have to answer questions.
- Though basic courtesy is probably the best policy, you can’t be arrested for snark. Threats are a different story, and refusing to identify yourself is a bad plan.
- Give them your license and registration when asked.
- Implied Consent: If you live in an implied consent state, you may have to take a breathalyzer test. However, you can refuse in places that don’t have this law. Keep in mind, an officer who can smell booze, or potent coverup agents like mouthwash may have reason to suspect that you’ve been drinking if you refuse a test.
- You can refuse a search of your car. A request is not a warrant. If you choose to allow the officers to search without a warrant, always let them know if there are weapons or dangerous items they might find. It’s ok to have a licensed firearm in your glovebox (most places) but failing to mention it before a search will raise alarm bells.
- Once you have your documents back, you can ask if you’re being detained. If you’re not under arrest, you have the right to leave. Do not just peel out, or do anything to endanger the officer when you leave.
- You can film the whole thing.
Top Five Best Dash Cams
Not all cameras are the same. If you’ve seen a Polaroid and a Cannon side by side, then you understand that, like all technology, they can have widely variable functions and forms. The best thing about a diverse market is the ability to find exactly what you need.
Conversely, the worst thing about choices is that there can be too many. It’s overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you and curated a quick and easy list of the best dash cams so you can compare them without having to hunt hundreds of pages. Any of our top five dash cams can get you the footage you need.
1. APEMAN C-450 Dash Cam
When it comes to finding a cost-effective and incredibly efficient dash cam, our top spot goes to the APEMAN. There’s so much to like about this camera we’re not even sure where to start. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the cost to value ratio, to say the least. When it comes to stretching a dollar further and getting more out of it, the C-450 impressed us big time with its laundry list of features.
The G- Sensor
While it’s not hard to rant about how cool this dash cam is, our favorite feature hands down is the G- Sensor. You can loop record on an APEMAN. That means you can set the record function to overwrite the internal memory automatically, so it keeps recording over itself even when it gets full. The apparent benefit notwithstanding, there’s a downside too. Loop recording means you can accidentally lose footage if you’re not uploading scrupulously.
Using the G- Sensor technology helps with this issue. The built-in technology detects sudden shakes and collisions. When it the G- Sensor goes off, it causes the recorder to lock the footage. Practically speaking, what that means for you is that you’ll never lose valuable footage of an accident. Even in loop recording mode, your G- Sensor will help save the evidence.
- Mounting Options- You can use the clever suction mount to place your C-450 anywhere you want on the windshield and remove it again with ease for cleaning, or other needs. Alternately, if you want a more permanent hold, try out the adhesive mounting. Whichever you choose, your APEMAN will stick where you want it and get the video you need.
- Charging Options- Just as you have options for mounting, you have charging options. You can use the car charger for continuous power while you drive, or you can use the mini USB charger to power up before you go for a drive if you prefer.
- Menu As A Screen Saver- If you want the camera on, but you don’t like the motion in the corner of your eye distracting you, then you have an easy choice. Set the device to the menu, and the camera will stay on without distracting you from the road with moving video scenes.
- You Have to Set it Carefully- The G- Sensor can mess with your recording if it’s saving a lot of information. Likewise, the security recording feature can confuse some users. The camera may record when you don’t expect it if you don’t pay close attention to the way it works.
- Battery Drain- You do need to turn off this device manually, or it will keep running. This can drain the internal power stores, or even your car battery over time if you hardwire it into your car battery.
- Popular Problems- When a dash cam is as popular as this one, they produce thousands a day. Unfortunately, it means that once in a blue moon, a broken camera is going to get past quality control. It’s a common problem among mass manufactured items. If you happen to get a less than perfect model, contact the company. They have excellent customer service, and if they can’t help, they’ll probably replace your APEMAN.
Learn everything about APEMAN C-450’s right here.
2. VAVA Car Dash Camera with Sony Night Vision
VAVA makes a fantastic dash cam. We had to include this on our list because it comes with a truly outstanding camera. Having the right camera makes all the difference when it comes to getting clear images of what’s happening around you. No one should ever have to worry about the quality of their recordings, but an inferior camera can wreck a critical bit of evidence.
If you’re going to record the police, then you need to make sure the images are of high quality. It simply won’t do to have a blurry picture if you ever have to go to court. Moreover, having too much distortion could even lose you a case. Hopefully, you’ll never actually need a video of the police for a court case, but if you do, the VAVA dash cam with Sony night vision is the right choice.
When looking for cameras, you can use this as a comparison. Anything less is not good enough. HD quality 1080 p means crystal clear pictures, and 60fps will record all the action without any chunky movements or glitches. The Sony IMX291 sensor will pick up all the detail you need so you can record faces and license plates without a problem.
You’ll have no worries about the CPU since this is based on the powerful Novatek NT96663. Furthermore, you can get a perfect 360° rotatable lens swivel. That will allow you to capture action outside, or if you ever need it, inside the car as well. Life can be incredibly unpredictable, so having a camera that does it all is the best way to stay safe and keep the record straight.
- Smartphone Compatible- You can send the images your VAVA captures directly to your smartphone. This allows you to see and transmit anything that goes on around your car at any time. If you’re getting arrested, you can always leave your phone on, or under, the seat, so it keeps recording even as your car is impounded. That means more security and protection for you and your vehicle.
- Wifi Transmitter Built-in- The integrated 2.4GHz Wi-Fi transmitter guarantees that you’ll have the best possible connection to your smartphone whenever you’re in, or near your car. You can direct stream without ever removing the SD card, and use your phone’s internet connection to upload to the cloud.
- Parking Mode- With a G- Sensor, and built-in automatic switch to parking mode, your recording will continue even if your car stops. This means you don’t need to worry about whether you get the rest of the video you need if you get hit.
- No Built-In Screen- You need to stream to your phone or upload your SD card to view the images that your VAVA records. It is both a safety feature to prevent distraction and a minor inconvenience. It all depends on how you look at things.
- Limited Wifi Range- While the streaming wifi is powerful in or near your car, it’s not built to transmit over long distances.
- Windshield Glare- You need to place your dash cam carefully to avoid glare from the windshield interfering. Unlike some models, the camera isn’t pressed right against the glass. Always consider your placement needs before you buy. If you have tinted windows or a darker/matte car, then your windshield will have less reflected light.
Check out the VAVA here.
3. YI Mirror Dual Dash Cam
Cover your dull rearview mirror with this clever camera and check out the whole scene from the driver’s seat. The familiar shape won’t distract the driver, so there’s very little adjustment when you install the new rear-facing camera. Moreover, it looks like a regular mirror on casual inspection. Anyone who’s not paying close attention won’t even notice it’s a camera.
The integrated touchscreen technology of the ‘mirror,’ allows a driver to interact with the cameras. An LCD 16:9 touchscreen is both powerful and easy to use and see the details, allowing a driver to customize their user experience.
The design allows you to slide the new camera screen right over your existing mirror. The simple setup makes it quick to place and remove at will. If you travel between areas where the dash cam laws change this is especially useful. Additionally, you don’t have to leave your cams or screen in place permanently, so there’s less risk of them being stolen if you accidentally leave the car unlocked at some point.
One camera is great, but more is better. The best thing about the YI cameras is that it’s actually two dash cams. With this outstanding device, you can get the front and rear views at the same time, so you don’t miss what’s behind you while you’re focussed on the road ahead. Wherever the police park, they’ll still be on candid camera the whole time.
You can use the second, rear, camera as a backup cam to assist with parking as well. As bonus features go, this one is about as good as it gets. Doubling your recording angles adds to your ability to get an entire incident on the record. There’s nowhere to hide when you have every angle covered.
- YI Dash App- You can easily install and use the app on your smartphone. Once you finish recording your experience with the police, you can replay the whole thing in real time, so you never have to wonder what happened. At the moment of an incident, things can be confusing and stressful, but your dash cam has no emotions to cloud the accurate picture of what occurred.
- Reverse Detection- Interactive screens aside, you don’t need to do a thing to switch views when you’re in the middle of backing up. The Reverse Detection feature will automatically register your motion change and swap views to compensate. You’ll know exactly what’s in ‘front’ of your moving vehicle at all times.
- The Clearest View Possible- Your new HD camera will show you every detail of what you need to see. Avoid small things behind you like glass or nails that might puncture a tire with a peerless 720p HD camera, and get an even more unobstructed view ahead in 1080 p. You won’t have to guess or strain your neck and eyes to know what’s ahead (or behind) with a Yi in your windows.
- Apps Need Permissions- Some consumers are uncomfortable when an app asks for permissions to access their phone. We respect your suspicions. However, accessing things like your contacts and calls don’t mean the app is planning to call your friends and family. Realistically, it just lets you get a call, and see who it is when the app was already running. Otherwise, you might miss something important because the app can’t let your call through or tell you who it is.
- You Must Have The App- If you refuse to install the app, you cannot get your software updates. This means your camera will be outmoded relatively quickly and may not upload correctly.
- Loose Mirror Troubles- If your rearview mirror isn’t firmly fixed in position, you may see the mirror slowly start to turn downward. Unfortunately, this isn’t an equipment failure on the part of the YI, but rather a car issue you’ll need to repair to use your dashcam properly.
Scope out all the action with a new YI here.
4. Anker Roav DashCam A1
Like most of our top five, the Anker Roav has an app and plenty of excellent features. Loop recording is a standard feature on good dash cams like this. However, it’s the lenses and camera angle that shine on this model. The 1080P Full-HD Video provides a fantastic picture. Plus the exceptional F1.9 Glass lenses capture a super wide angle view.
You don’t have to miss out on what happens in the periphery of the shot with a great wide angle such as this camera uses. The included app lets you use the whole picture and video setup seamlessly. You can configure and view with no trouble from the convenience of your phone. You can download video and share it fast at the touch of a button on the screen for quick storage and use.
Night as Clear as Day
The night vision on this option is dynamic and beautiful. The Advanced NightHawk technology helps you get all the details even in low light conditions. An included Sony Sensor helps your dash cam tell when it needs to use the nighttime functions. You’ll get a better all-around evening and night driving experience with the Roav’s superb recording skills. Never miss an important moment again.
Some dash cams use a lower quality night vision system, and that can be a problem. Worse yet, there are cheap dash cams that don’t have any nighttime capabilities at all. That’s fine if you never drive at night, and you don’t want security features like Surveillance Mode. However, most of us want the full package.
- Mobile Suction Mount- If you share your car, or want a nicely adaptable positioning system, the suction mount is perfect. Since you can move the camera around to suit your needs, it means you don’t need to worry about blocking any essential parts of your field of vision. Adaptability is vital when you want the best user experience.
- 12 Month Product Replacement Warranty- We’ve said it before, a company that stands behind their products is an excellent company to deal with. Anker offers a warranty for a replacement if anything goes wrong the first year you own the Roav A1. We hope you never need it, but if something goes wrong, you can contact the company, and they’ll help you get a new camera so you can get back to filming ASAP.
- Best Flex- You can rotate an Anker Raov 360° for a full view all around including inside the car. Furthermore, you can also tilt the camera up to 180° for better flexibility and more viewing area than almost any other dash cam. When you combine the tilt and rotation with the wide angle lens and superior night vision, there’s no reason to worry about missing out on anything you might need to capture.
- Low-Class SD Card Woes- A Class 10, 32GB micro SD / TF card is an absolute must for this model. You’ll have to purchase your own card since it’s not included. Some dash cams work fine with a lower quality SD card, but using a cheap version with this camera could damage the equipment. Always check your specs before you install any part of a dash cam.
- Time Stamp Troubles- Sometimes the on and off of the car can cause a slight variation in time stamping. You may need to go in and do a manual time reset. As troubles go, that’s not too bad.
- Remember to Reformat- The SD card does require a regular reformatting to be used correctly. Though the product specifications and directions warn customers of this clearly, people still forget. You can lose video if you don’t follow the instructions.
Pick up your incredible Anker Roav dash cam right here.
5. YI Smart Dash Cam
Smart cams, along with other smart devices, are growing in popularity all the time. If you wonder why, then you need only to choose this dash cam to learn why people love their smart systems. From unlocking your garage for safer package delivery to alerting your phone when there’s an intruder in your home, or just reminding you that you’re out of milk, smart gear is the future.
YI is the only company to make our list twice, and they deserve both slots. The Dual Dash Cam (above) is first-rate, and it’s sibling the Smart Dash Cam is formidable in its own right. Either YI is an excellent choice, but only one has smart technology.
The Amazing ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System)
If you’re looking forward to the self-driving cars of the future, you can get a taste of what that might be like (without the risk of testing new technology) by driving with ADAS. Of course, it won’t drive the whole car for you, but it might as well. With “the most advanced and optimized visual recognition algorithms ensure safe driving,” you’ll be safer even if you never need to film the police.
The real-time lane departure helps keep you on track and headed in the right direction. If that’s not enough to keep you out of trouble and another driver hits you, the Emergency Recording will preserve the video leading up to, during, and after an accident. That should be enough to satisfy any insurance agent or judge.
- H.264 Video Encoding- When it comes to being confident, you can count on the optimized video encoding on the YI Smart Dash Cam to save the day. Or at least, it will save your footage and keep it secure until you need it. Review your favorite drives, or share police abuse of power you caught on tape with this fantastic feature.
- Three Lane Coverage- The wide capture lens helps make sure you can see what’s happening on either side. You don’t need to rely on pure straight-ahead point-of-view with a nice wide shot to review.
- Built-in Widescreen- Naturally, capturing a wide shot isn’t much use if you can’t see it. Use the integrated wide-screen on your smart YI to see everything your camera captured in real time.
- Press the Button- To enable Emergency Mode, you have o press the button. Failure to do so may result in lost footage. It’s not hard to push a button, but try not to forget, or you could find you don’t have the footage saved.
- Adhesive Adversity- In the very hottest southern weather, the included adhesive can melt. Of course, so can plastic inside a car in summer.
- Battery Blues- Heat might melt adhesives, but seriously cold winters affect battery life. This isn’t unique to this model, or even dash cams in general. Most batteries drain faster in extreme cold.
Say yes to YI here.
Honorable Mention: THINKWARE TWA-F750M
There are lots of great dash cams to choose from. We wanted to give an honorable mention to this great alternate that just missed making the list. The THINKWARE TWA-F750M is compact, so it doesn’t block much of the view. More importantly, the 3M tape adhesive mount is secure in extreme weather.
It should sit securely in the heat of the desert or the cold of a snowstorm. Not even a violent impact will knock this dash cam free. The mount also serves to minimize vibration distortions and glare from the glass. We like THINKWAREs’ thoughtful design and picture clarity saving features. This camera came so close to making the list; it was almost a top six.
Try out THINKWARE right here.
No one likes to think they might be the victim of police abuse. Sadly, it can happen to anyone, and the only solution is to be prepared. You cannot fight back physically; after all, assaulting an officer is a crime by itself. Plus, you can’t run or hide either. Worse, you can even find yourself in jail for resisting. It’s a problem. Instead of risking jail time and damaging your permanent record, do the smart thing. Get a good dash camera to make sure you always have a witness, especially when no one is around to see what’s happening.
A camera can’t prevent something awful from happening, but it can make sure you can prove and report it afterward. No one wants to feel like a ‘snitch,’ or like we live in a world where ‘big brother’ is watching your every move. Regardless, there are times when the truth needs to come out for everyone’s safety. You can be a victim, or you can be a hero, the choice is yours.