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Window Tint Laws: The Basics

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

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If you are considering tinting your car or truck windows, you should get familiar with laws that regulate vehicle window tinting. It is also important to know the penalties and exemptions under window tint laws.

Here you will find basic information on window tinting laws, tint tickets, "medical necessity" exemptions, and more. (Also see: State-Specific Information on Vehicle Window Tint Laws.)

How Much Is a Window Tint Ticket?

It depends on where you live. The charge for window tint tickets varies from state to state. There are also local city laws that come into play. A ticket charge is determined by:

  • How much darker the tint is compared to legal tint levels (for example: 50% darker)
  • Whether you have past "fix it" tickets or warnings telling you to take off the window tint

These tickets fall under minor traffic laws in most states. It is sometimes possible to reduce the ticket amount if you remove the tint right away after getting pulled over.

If you don't, you might be facing costs like:

  • Around $25 for a "fix it" ticket as your first warning
  • About $100 for a first illegal window tint ticket
  • Over $200 for a second tint ticket

If you decide not to remove the tint, then the ticket cost will go up each time you are pulled over. There can also be additional court processing fees, tint removal verification fees, and late fees that add up.

Window Tinting Basics

"Window tinting" refers to methods that prevent certain levels of light from passing through the safety glass. Usually, a colored film is placed over the windshield, side windows, and rear window of a vehicle.

The safety glass on most newer cars and passenger vehicles has been coated or treated. This provides some degree of window tinting to keep out harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays. This tinting is done during the manufacturing process. It is almost always in compliance with federal and state window tinting laws and regulations.

Window tinting can also be done after a vehicle has been manufactured and sold (called "after-market"). These tints are often done by private "customizing" companies or by the vehicle's owner. It is when these modifications are made that window tint laws are most commonly violated.

Window Tint Laws

Vehicle window tinting is almost always regulated under state law, and the applicable statutes can usually be found in a state's vehicle or traffic code.

Find the applicable window tint law section for your state on Findlaw.com.

Different Forms of Window Tinting

Your state's vehicle code may consider "window tinting" to include:

  • Heat-shrinking a tinted sheet of film to a vehicle's windshield or window, usually on the inside surface of the glass. This is generally done after-market.
  • "Shade bands," usually meaning a thin, horizontal strip of tint at the top of a vehicle's windshield, where it meets the vehicle roof.
  • Sunscreen devices that are temporarily affixed to the inside surface of a vehicle's windshield, side windows, or rear window. This is often a plastic shade device on a passenger side window, held in place with suction cups).

Most state laws on vehicle window tinting are concerned with the levels of "light transmittance" or "luminous reflectance" that the vehicle's safety glass allows. This means how much light can get through and how much visibility the glass allows.

So, illegally tinted windows allow an amount of light to come through that is below the amount identified under state law (i.e., 75% light transmittance). When the police spot this, they will pull you over and say the vehicle does not comply with the state's vehicle code. They will issue you a citation.

Many state vehicle codes contain different light transmittance requirements for the vehicle's front windshield when compared with standards for the vehicle's side and rear windows.

Finally, most state vehicle codes specify that no vehicle windshield or window may have opaque or mirrored material or "one-way" glass.

Does Your Vehicle's Window Tinting Violate Your State's Laws?

Measurements like "light transmittance" and "luminous reflectance" can be challenging to understand. They can be even more difficult to calculate with any level of confidence. So you may want to have your vehicle inspected to determine whether it is in compliance with your state's window tint laws.

A government inspector or a private licensed professional can inspect your vehicle. They will most likely use a light transmission-measuring device called a photometer. This determines if your vehicle's safety glass meets the "light transmittance" or "luminous reflectance" standards of your state's window tint laws.

To learn where you can have your vehicle's window tinting inspected, start by contacting your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) office. And remember, even if your vehicle's safety glass is currently in compliance with your state's window tint laws, that could change if you move to another state.

Reasons to Tint Car Windows

Some people believe that vehicle window tinting keeps the temperature inside a car cooler. Others like the overall aesthetic of window tints.

In some cases, drivers or passengers may have a legally recognizable medical need to have tinted vehicle windows. Even when the tint level would otherwise violate their state's vehicle code, it can be allowed for medical reasons.

Medical Necessity Exemptions to Window Tint Laws

Many state vehicle window tinting laws contain exemptions. These only apply to:

  • The driver or frequent passenger in a specific vehicle
  • People with a valid medical or vision-related condition that requires the limitation of exposure to sunlight

Examples of medical conditions that may qualify under these exemptions are:

  • Lupus
  • Sunlight allergy
  • Photosensitivity
  • Melanoma

How to Beat a Window Tint Ticket for Medical Reasons

If a vehicle is stopped for a window tint-related traffic violation, you have to follow a few steps. The police officer needs to know you qualify for a medical exemption and can avoid a citation.

The affected driver or passenger must present the law enforcement officer with documentation that:

  1. Identifies the medical necessity (this can be a prescription or detailed letter from a medical professional)
  2. States the specific amount of sunlight exposure (i.e., the minimum percentage of light transmittance reduction) that will satisfy the medical needs of the affected driver or passenger
  3. Contains a prescription expiration date or permit duration
  4. Identifies the specific vehicle(s) to which the "medical necessity" window tint exemption applies

What to Expect in a Window Tint Application Process

The following are some examples of state-specific applications for "medical necessity" window tint exemptions:

To find out whether such an exemption is available in your state, start by contacting your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) office.

Reasons to Remove Window Tints

Removing a tint will stop you from being pulled over again and again for illegal window tinting. This may not seem like a big deal, but the ticket prices will go up each time you are pulled over.

In some cases, the police may find other things wrong with your car or your driving, which can lead to additional charges or fines. This is frustrating when many people paid money for the tint or bought a car that already had it.

Only you know if having the illegal window tint is worth paying extra money. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of leaving a dark window tint on your car.

Need Legal Guidance on Window Tinting Laws? Contact an Attorney

Whether you need window tinting for legitimate health reasons or think it looks cool, make sure you understand the laws in your state first.

If your situation is particularly complex, you may want to speak with an attorney who handles traffic law matters.

Next Steps

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