What to do if police ask for your camera

Gopro helmet camera 2015 ban

You may have just had a crash or been spotted doing something illegal by the police who have pulled you over and see that you have an action camera strapped to your bike, helmet or body.

They ask for the camera or SD card, or they simply remove it.

What do you do?

Riders have been fined around the world by the self-incriminating evidence of an action camera.

In January 2016, a 60-year-old British motorcyclist was sentenced to two years’ jail for dangerous driving based on evidence from his helmet camera SD card.

In another UK case, a rider dumped the SD card, but it was later found by police in a tunnel. He and several of his companions were later taken to court and fined and even banned from riding for a number of traffic offences.

There have also been several cases of Australian riders being fined for evidence collected from confiscated cameras and SD cards.SD Card in a GoPro - jail camera

Police powers

Police can legally ask for your camera and SD card if they “reasonably suspect” it could contain evidence a minor traffic or serious offence has been committed.

A crash is a good example of where police might exercise their right to collect relevant evidence.

In some places, such as America, police may first have to obtain a search warrant. In Australia, they don’t.

Without wishing to pervert the course of justice, we suggest you extract the SD card or at least turn off your camera to avoid attracting the attention of the police.

If they see the camera is off or that the SD card is missing, they might just assume you weren’t recording.

However, we do not suggest you lie and say you don’t have it or that it wasn’t recording. That’s a whole other offence.

Even if you want to use the evidence later in your defence, your lie will then be obvious and police could charge you for providing false information.

If they ask for the camera or card, you can politely tell the police you will gladly make it available after it is copied. 

That may not work, unless you have been syrupy sweet.

Matt's HJC helmet camera

Don’t be obstinate. That could be seen as refusing to hand over evidence and you could be charged with obstructing a police officer in the execution of their duty.

That would result in a court appearance where you could cop a fine of a few hundred dollars,

The proper procedure is to let them take it and then challenge it in court. But, of course, the horse has already bolted.

Another legal opinion

However, one legal advisor suggest that would offend the right to not incriminate yourself.

“But there is the law and there is reality,” he notes. “Coppers will usually do whatever is easiest to ‘prove’ an offence. If that entails bullying a motorist into handing over an SD card, that is what the coppers will do.”

If your camera or SD card has been confiscated by the police or handed over to them, ask the officer to make a note of it.

Police must supply you with a receipt of the item as “soon as possible”. It must also be returned to you in 30 days unless it is to be used as evidence. In that case, police have to apply for an extension through court.Helmet camera - road rules

If the matter goes to court, your legal representative can also ask for the card or, at least, a copy to be supplied for your use as evidence.

Incriminating evidence

But here’s the scary thing: It’s not just your SD card that could incriminate you.

As bikes become more technologically advanced, their ECU or data recorder could also supply vital information to police.

They can also obtain incriminating evidence from your GPS or even various smartphone apps that track your ride.

Please note:

  • This article is based on several other articles already published on Motorbike Writer as well as information from police and lawyers, including East Coast Lawyer Tina Davis and assistant Robyn Temperton. It is not legal advice. For legal advice, you should engage the services of a lawyer.
  • If you have any further questions about your legal rights, Tina says you are welcome to email her or contact her at 1300 720 544.
  • Since the law can be challenged and is open to legal interpretation, you may disagree with many of the points raised here. Please feel free to comment in the “Leave a reply” section below.

18 Comments

  1. Why don’t people take responsibility for their actions? If you were riding like a dick and caught it on camera, and the cops ask to see the camera after they stop you, or a crash, don’t think about them being dickheads, think instead “yeah, I’m a chump and I’m gonna own this result”.

    So many people don’t want to see what they create and are ignorant to the point of being an arsehole and belligerent. We know riding with traffic is unpredictable, we know cops often get involved, we know we’re running a camera, we know we put ourselves in the situation. Farrkkk, own it!

    1. This is exactly right. People behave like kids and then moan about a nanny state. Accept responsibility for your actions… you decide to ride powerful bikes, decide to twist the throttle, and decide whatever other traffic laws you break. And then blame the pigs for catching you! Grow up.

  2. You do not legally have to hand over your camera or sd card in NSW unless there has been a crime committed and last time I looked, a traffic fine is not a criminal offence

  3. I’ve thought about this quite a lot (which probably means I’m way off target), BUT, Plod demanding your camera, usually because he/she is just trying one on, IMHO is an invasion of personal privacy.

    Unless they have either a warrant, or can present a very good reason to believe a law has been broken, IMHO they have no right to ask any such thing. If they do have this ‘right’ (by a nod and a wink from above), then it’s police state mentality to suit the situation.

    How far back do you go?
    Mobile phone contents? Mobile device contents? You wallet? (Orrr noww Sirrrr – we’re lookin’ forrr $20 notes from bank robbery – empty Urrr wallet please).
    Your car? Your house? Your diary?

    To my mind, all these personal possessions are part of your private personal space that begins within your home. There, police cannot enter unless either invited, or have a legally justifiable reason to enter. Further, if the “legally justifiable reason” proves to be a falsehood, for whatever reason, the home owner has legal grounds for compensatory action against the Police eg to sue.

    So if Plod ‘demands’ your camera and it shows no illegal behaviour, then sue them, and tell them you will. Challenge their assertion of interfering with police in their line of duty. Record the incident with another camera / voice recorder etc.

    I have a ‘dash cam’ for the same reason as motorists: to safeguard myself in case of accident or police bullying.

    If they protest, ask why they have body cameras or dash cams. Ask to see the contents of these devices. If they refuse, ask why.

    Police are NOT above the law, and can never be given the faintest glimmer of a reason to think they are.

    But they persist: everyone has seen Plod breaking just about every traffic law, especially speeding, just because they can. This lot has more hide than Nellie the Elephant, more front than a rat with a gold tooth, and not much integrity. Challenge any B/S on every occasion.

    That’s my take on the situation. Interested to hear from any legal minds.

    JC

  4. They will have to pry it from my dead hands!
    Don’t they have enough cameras,lazar,etc in their vehicles!!!!!!!
    Oh! while the scumbag is robbing my place they want to book me for 10-15 above the limit?
    Who is the criminal me (did i hurt or cause damage to someone or their property NO!) or the bloke breaking in,
    as they say it’s not rocket science.
    I guess it’s like the song from the 60’s “stop the world I want to get of”

  5. I ride with a Garmin. In case of a Police check I usually ‘reset’ all the fields recording speed data. This requires only two input commands on the touch-screen and I am not self-indiscriminating.

  6. Ha, and when Victorian police are handed evidence, that is, well lets just say pretty damning evidence of dangerous driving, 4 months later still no charges.

    Oh that’s right silly billy me, the damning evidence was against a car driver, not a motorcyclist.

  7. Well I’d be stuffed, I have Satnav, Black Knight Tracking, bike cam, helmet cam and phone tracking yes officer which one do you want? Not that I break the law anyway.

  8. Use hidden cameras!
    But have one in plain view that’s turned off with a flat battery.
    That way they may not look for the hidden cameras and if they take the visible one you can honestly say the battery is flat so there’s nothing on it.

  9. I wanna be STIG….or develop invisible powers & a licence plate that flips backwards like in Get Smart & also be heat detector repellant from the eyes in the skies. Why can’t we just enjoy life and all of it’s ups & downs like we are suppose to. Just got all too techo & serious for me. Maybe just become a magician and suddenly produce a squeaky clean sd card..all of a sudden. !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *