Dashboard cameras, according to USA Today, have “gone mainstream.” Wholesale shipments of dash cams are projected to reach 285,000 this year, a twenty percent increase over 2017.

As more police departments and private motorists are making use of dashboard cameras, many drivers in the state of Colorado are asking: Can you beat a traffic ticket with dash cam footage?

Dash cams in 2018 are smaller and less obtrusive than the older models. Some can capture a very wide angle and produce high-definition video. The newer models also have great night vision.

WHY ARE SO MANY DRIVERS BUYING DASH CAMS?

Drivers in Colorado are buying dash cams for all kinds of reasons, but the primary reason is to protect themselves from wrongful and false accusations related to their driving.

For example, if you are ticketed for running a red light or a stop sign, dash cam evidence might be able to prove that you came to a full stop. If you are accused of causing an accident, dash cam footage might prove that the other driver was the at-fault driver.

That is important, because if you are convicted of a traffic violation in Colorado, you may have to pay more for auto insurance, and you could be penalized with a fine, a driver’s license suspension, or even – in the worst-case scenario – time behind bars.

IS DASH CAM FOOTAGE ALWAYS HELPFUL?

Of course, if your vehicle is equipped with a dash cam, and if you are in fact responsible for causing an accident, your dash cam footage may not help you – and in fact, it could be the evidence that convicts you.

Police in Denver have executed at least one search warrant for a driver’s dashboard camera footage after that driver allegedly caused a hit-and-run crash.

The police did not find the video they were seeking in that case, but their search warrant request indicates the potential of dash cam evidence to “cut both ways.”

WHO IS USING DASH CAMS TO INVESTIGATE TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS?

Because the dash cam is a neutral observer, it is rapidly becoming a routine element of traffic accident investigations, not only for police departments, but also for insurance companies.

Officer Al Graham conducts traffic investigations for the Aurora Police Department. He told Denver’s KUSA News that dash cams are “an investigative tool for us.”

And Carole Walker, speaking for the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, told KUSA, “This is really another tool that could speed up the claims process.”

For now, auto insurance companies are not offering discounts or incentives for dashboard camera users, but that may change if the technology continues to prove useful.

CAN THIRD-PARTY DASH CAM FOOTAGE BE USED AS LEGAL EVIDENCE?

And even if your vehicle is not equipped with your own dash cam, there is still a good possibility that any accident you are involved in will be recorded by a third party.

In fact, you can view thousands of collisions and close calls recorded by third-party dash cams on YouTube.

Josh Schaffer even operates a YouTube channel called “Denver Dash Cam” which features local drivers on the wrong side of the road, running traffic lights, and changing lanes recklessly.

In 2014, police and prosecutors in Denver used one man’s third-party dash cam footage to charge and convict a pickup truck driver who failed to yield to an automobile and caused a serious collision.

WHAT ARE CONSIDERED MAJOR TRAFFIC CRIMES IN COLORADO?

What crimes are considered major traffic offenses in the state of Colorado?

1. reckless driving

2. vehicular assault and vehicular homicide

3. aggravated motor vehicle theft

4. driving under a license revocation or suspension

5. leaving the scene of an accident involving death or injury

6. DUI (driving under the influence), DWAI (driving while ability impaired), and DUID (driving under the influence of drugs)

WHEN IS A COLORADO DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENDED?

A Colorado driver’s license will be suspended if the driver is age 21 or over and receives:

1. 12 or more points within a 12-month period
2. 18 or more points within a 24-month period

For younger drivers, even fewer points are allowed. When a Colorado driver is convicted for three or more major traffic offenses within a 7-year period, that driver’s license can be suspended for five years.

Colorado drivers whose licenses are suspended may qualify for but are not guaranteed a probationary driver license (PDL). A PDL is generally valid only for driving to and from work or school.

HAS ANY DRIVER WON A TRAFFIC TICKET CASE WITH DASH CAM FOOTAGE?

You can see how important it is to avoid traffic tickets and traffic convictions in Colorado, but the question remains: Can you beat a traffic ticket with dash cam footage?

The answer is probably yes – provided that the footage is clear and its authenticity can be verified.

Rod MacIver, a painter in Vermont, used a dash cam footage from the police officer’s patrol car to challenge and beat a ticket for running a red light. Then he sued the Shelburne, Vermont Police Department for wrongfully ticketing him.

Not every traffic case involving dash cam footage will be that easy to resolve, but you must avoid traffic tickets and traffic convictions in Colorado. If you are ticketed or charged with a major traffic violation, you must have a lawyer’s advice and help.

HOW CAN A TRAFFIC ATTORNEY HELP?

Should you buy a dash cam for your own vehicle? It is probably not a bad idea. You’ll not only have evidence on your side if you are wrongfully ticketed or charged with a traffic offense, but if you are injured by another driver’s negligence, you will have evidence for a lawsuit.

Banks, retailers, and many other institutions long ago understood the value of surveillance video. It might help you, too.

If you’ve received a Colorado traffic ticket, if you’re charged with a major traffic offense, or if you are concerned about a driver’s license suspension or revocation, you must meet at once with an experienced Denver traffic ticket attorney – and get the legal help that you need.

Your lawyer will explain the charges you face, the options you have, and the potential results. A good traffic lawyer will fight hard for your rights and for the best possible resolution to your traffic case, but you must take the first step to get the legal help you need – and make the call.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.

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