Do you have a dash cam in your vehicle? Truck drivers have been using them for a few years now in order to record their movements on highways and roads in case of an accident. That way they have visual evidence to (hopefully) prove their innocence should any accident occur. Other drivers are doing the same on their vehicles as well.

What happens, however, when you cross the Canada-U.S. border with a dash-cam on your vehicle?

The answer – as crazy as it might sound – depends on which side of the border you happen to be on, and even in which direction you happen to be travelling in. Let’s find out why!

 

Entering the US with a Dash Cam

Do you have a dash cam in your vehicle? Truck drivers have been using them for a few years now in order to record their movements on highways and roads in case of an accident. That way they have visual evidence to (hopefully) prove their innocence should any accident occur. Other drivers are doing the same on their vehicles as well.

What happens, however, when you cross the Canada-U.S. border with a dash-cam on your vehicle?

The answer – as crazy as it might sound – depends on which side of the border you happen to be on, and even in which direction you happen to be travelling in. Let’s find out why!

It all starts with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and its Rules & Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property. These are the regulations in place when anyone enters or is in federal property. And the U.S. side of the U.S.–Canada border is considered federal property of the American government. As is the Canadian side is property of the Canadian government. Here’s what the relevant section (41 CFR 102-74.420) says:

Photographs for News, Advertising, or Commercial Purposes (41 CFR 102-74.420). Except where security regulations, rules, orders, or directives apply or a Federal court order or rule prohibits it, persons entering in or on Federal property may take photographs of:

  • (a) Space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned;
  • (b) Space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned, and;
  • (c) Building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors or auditoriums for news purposes.

So, looking at the fine print, so to speak, it’s clear that according to these regulations, US Customs & Border Protection Officers have to give you permission – and perhaps even written permission depending on how one defines the border – in order for your dash-cam to be on and filming when you are crossing the border on the American side.

Canadian truckers began to be questioned and almost threatened by US Customs and Border Protection officers, starting a few years ago, when they attempted to cross the border with their dash-cams on. They have even on occasion threatened to confiscate drivers’ FAST cards.

It appears that Customs officers are understandably worried about those video images of the border and its procedures being used by criminals and/or terrorists in order to carry out some sort of penetration of the frontier thrusting deep into their territory where they discharge their schemes.

While queries by Canadian trucking associations to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency have mostly been met with promises of clarity on what exactly the rules are, it appears that the regulation shown above provides the U.S. Customs officers with sufficient rationale to prohibit dash-cams that don’t explicitly have their permission from being turned on at the border.

Remember, it was a Federal building in Oklahoma that was the target of a massive truck bombing back in 1995. No one wants a truck bomber, for example, to destroy a border crossing and throw the entire Canada – U.S. border into chaos.

So, on the American side of the border, it is best that you turn off your dash-cam, regardless of what type of vehicle you happen to be driving. And it would make sense that the Canada Border Services Agency would have the same policy, right?

 

Entering Canada with a Dash Cam

Wrong.

Apparently, CBSA officials do not have the right to demand you turn off your dash-cam. They do, however, have the authority to inspect devices and review files to see if they are deemed harmful or dangerous. Here’s how the CBSA responded to an inquiry by Truck News, a publication dealing with the trucking industry in North America:

"The CBSA does not restrict the use of dash cameras at ports of entry. Dash cameras may be on and recording while waiting in line and they do not have to be turned off when speaking with an officer as long as it does not hinder or obstruct the officer’s ability to carry out their duties,” explained Esme Bailey, senior media spokesperson with CBSA.

As she further explained:

"The CBSA does not have the authority to delete files. Our officers are trained to search electronic media for child pornography, obscene material and hate propaganda,” Bailey said. “They receive training to familiarize themselves with computers and other devices and how to quickly identify potential files. In cases where a CBSA officer discovers suspected child pornography or suspect files, the goods are seized, and the individual is arrested. Local law enforcement is contacted, and they may lay charges under the Criminal Code. The CBSA may lay charges under the Customs Act."

In other words, CBSA officials can stop you and inspect the images on your dash-cam and decide if they warrant laying charges. They cannot request you to turn it off, however.

 

So, while dash-cams may prove invaluable if you are involved in some sort of traffic accident, they can be a distraction and even cause substantial delays at the border. Yes, you can keep your dash-cam turned on, when you’re on the Canadian side of the border. But you might find yourself being inspected by CBSA officials and suffering a delay.

And on the American side, please turn it off. Unless you want to file a court case challenging FMR Title 41, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 102-74, Subpart C. And watch your case wind its way through the legal system as you accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in legal fees. And of course, risk losing the case regardless.

Turn your dash-cam off at the border. It’s cheaper.


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