Window tint is a great way to personalize your vehicle, keep it from getting hot in the summer, keep out prying eyes, and of course keep the sun and glare out of your eyes while driving. In California, like many states, there are laws that dictate what type of window tint is legal and allowable.
The darkness of tint is measured by the percentage of light allowed through the tint. For example, tint that allows through 50% of the light is simply referred to as 50%. In California, the front drivers and passenger window are allowed to be tinted at 70%, meaning that it will let through 70% of the light while only blocking 30%. The back windows in a vehicle, meaning the back seat and rear window can be tinted as dark as you would like. If you prefer dark windows, your windows can be tinted as much as 5%. It is illegal to tint your windshield in California, aside from a 4-inch strip at the top of the windshield. This strip must be above the factory AS-1 line (the little line on your windshield on the upper corners). Tint that comes below this line is considered illegal. California law also prohibits metallic, reflective window tint that would reflect more than an un-tinted window.
California Window Tint Citations
You may be pulled over for illegal window tint or you may be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, and an officer also realizes your window tint is illegal. The officer can do one of two thing: 1) the officer can issue you a fix-it-ticket that will require you to have your window tint removed from the vehicle and have an officer of the law sign off that that window tint was indeed removed or you may be required to file an affidavit, supported by proof, that shows that you have removed the tint 2) for a second violation, the officer may issue a regular ticket that requires you to go to court and explain to a judge why you have violated the window tint laws. Remember, even though an officer can pull you over for illegal window tint, he or she does not automatically have the right to search your vehicle. You should not give an officer permission to search your vehicle. An officer can only search your vehicle in certain situations, which are:
1) You consent to the search of your vehicle.
2) Illegal or contraband items are in “plain view” meaning that they can be plainly seen by the officer without him having to move or manipulate the item and it is apparent that the item is illegal or contraband.
3) If you are arrested, your vehicle can be searched incident to lawful arrest.
4) If the officer has probable cause to suspect that you have committed a crime.
5) If police there are exigent circumstances, he/she can search your vehicle to avoid the destruction of evidence.
6) If the officer has a warrant to search your vehicle.
Many might be wondering why it is illegal to have dark window tint in California. It is believed that having dark window tint lessens visibility and makes it harder for drivers to see oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Statistics show that drivers with dark tinted windows or windshields are more likely to miss seeing vehicles or pedestrians in front of their vehicle and are more likely to be involved in traffic collisions. There is another argument for safety, however for the safety of officers who are pulling over vehicles. Officers need to be able to see in the vehicle in which they are pulling over to ensure their own safety. If an officer is unable to see into the vehicle they are pulling over, there is a possibility that someone could hurt or kill the officer without him or her being adequately prepared.
Darker Tint Should Be Legalized
Arguments for legalizing dark window tint have mainly been that people would like to tint their windows if they have certain medical conditions. People with medical conditions feel that they should be able to tint their front windows and their windshield so shade them from the intrusive sunlight. The government in California has passed laws that allow people with certain conditions, requiring them to be blocked from UV light, to have window tint on their front windshields and windows. Examples of these conditions include lupus, melanoma, photo sensitivity, and sun allergies. Typically, the patient must have a note signed by a dermatologist
It isn’t clear how many tickets are given each year for illegal window tint however the California Highway Patrol mentions that tickets for illegal window tint are common. One source with the highway patrol stated that from January 2015 through August 2015, there were a total of 193,000 tickets given for illegal window tint.