If I am driving a car and get into a crash that is 100% my fault can I rip my dash cam down and delete the footage or completely refuse to give the footage to anyone or am I legally required to provide that footage?
As an example, under the laws of Colorado, USA, deleting the footage would be a crime. See CRS 18-8-610:
A person commits tampering with physical evidence if, believing that an official proceeding is pending or about to be instituted and acting without legal right or authority, he:
(a) Destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes, or alters physical evidence with intent to impair its verity or availability in the pending or prospective official proceeding;
If you cause a crash, you should certainly believe that you are going to be sued, and a lawsuit is definitely an official proceeding. And it sounds like your purpose in deleting the footage is to prevent it from being used in that lawsuit. So you'd be clearly guilty under this law. It is a class 6 felony, carrying a sentence of 12-18 months in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
It may be counterintuitive, but according to a law firm, a digital video would be considered physical evidence:
Physical evidence may include electronic records, videos, or audio recordings. This includes emails, text messages, social media messages, image files, video files, and computer files.
If you don't delete the video, it is likely to be demanded by the plaintiff during the discovery process so that it can be entered into evidence. Rule 37 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure lists the sanctions that can be imposed if you refuse, such as:
charging you for legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs in trying to obtain it
assuming that the video proves whatever the plantiffs say it would show (e.g. that you were speeding, driving recklessly, etc)
entering a default judgment against you (the plaintiffs automatically win the suit, as if you had refused to show up in court)
holding you in contempt of court, which can lead to you being put in jail until you choose to comply, as well as fined.
If things go to court, and the court knows that camera evidence existed, then two things can happen: 1. You may be in trouble for destroying evidence. 2. In a civil court, the judge can and likely will conclude that any evidence that you destroyed or refused to supply would be against you.
Details will be different from country to country.
Under UK law this could be considered Perverting the course of justice, which includes The disposal, or fabricating, of evidence.
There are defenses you can use such as Genuine mistake or error. So you could argue that you went to make a copy of the footage for the Police/Court and deleted it by accident. This of course would need to be argued in court.
IANAL but I recommend setting a retention policy. Hopefully your dash cam will allow you to set a policy that it can implement automatigically. What you need specifically is that all footage will be erased after some time without any action on your part - unless you take action to preserve it.
For example, let us assume that footage shows Delinquent Dan pounding down some beers while driving. Then Dan crashes. Dan is in very bad shape. Dan can not control the dash cam anymore. The footage shows the police arriving. The footage shows an ambulance taking Dan away. The footage shows a tow truck hauling Dan's car to an impound lot.
The camera is still following retention policy and (according to policy) a week later has deleted all this footage and replaced it with footage of the impound lot. Dan knows he messed up big time and has kept his mouth shut.
The police want that footage and the camera is in their physical possession. Do they need a warrant to get it? (I don't know.) Will they try to take it before the week is up? (I don't know.) Do they know they have a week deadline to get it? (No, they don't.)
The downside of this is if one is not at fault and the footage would exonerate one then one must take action or else one loses one's footage. For example, what if Dan had not been drinking and the crash was totally not Dan's fault but Dan is at the hospital and Dan's car is in the impound lot. How would Dan stop the retention policy from destroying exonerating evidence?