Why Are Window Tints Illegal? (Legal Percentage by State)

Tinting car windows absorbs and blocks harmful UV rays that jeopardize your health and make the car interior fade over time. Therefore, many drivers are unsure why are window tints illegal in some states.

In fact, most states don’t forbid window tinting, but they have laws limiting darkening glass levels. The primary reasons are traffic safety and quick cell phone and seat belt usage control. However, there are a few exceptions when the law allows lower car window tinting levels. Let’s see.

Window Tint Laws

Window tinting is regulated by state law, and a state’s vehicle code describes several film options:

  • An after-market applied tinted film on the inside glass surface
  • Shade bands (thin, horizontal tint strip at the windshield top)
  • Sunscreen film temporarily affixed to the windshield, side or rear window inside

State laws regulate visible light transmission levels and luminous glass reflectance. They refer to the light amount that gets through the glass and the visibility level it allows.

You will break the law if your window film lets the too low light level through the glass. Checking regulations is crucial because they can vary significantly depending on the state.

Reasons for the tinted windows’ illegality

  1. Reduced visibility – Too dark car windows can put you and other road users into a dangerous situation, particularly during the night ride and harsh weather conditions. In most cases, such glass will limit the driver’s ability to notice pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.
  2. Compromised police officers’ safety – Window tint regulations help police officers to protect themselves in potentially dangerous situations. When the glass is too dark, they can’t make eye contact with a driver and passengers and check their behavior. In extreme situations, tinted windows may conceal illegal activities.
  3. Monitoring mobile devices and seat belt use while driving – Police officers can’t check whether a driver and co-driver use seat belts and cell phones when tinted windows are too dark.

 

Terminology

Before understanding state laws about tinting, knowing what particular terms mean is necessary.

  • Visible light transmission (VLT%) – This measurement allows assessing car window tints. The lower VLT% indicates a darker film, so fewer lights get through it.
  • Windshield – No one state allows windshield tinting, but you can sometimes add a sticker to its top. In most cases, that area coincides with the sun shield surface.
  • Rear window tint level – This tint VLT% is often the same as for the rear-side windows. Only a few states have more restrictive rules about tint level on this window.
  • Front-side window tint level – You can tint driver and front passenger windows according to the law in each particular state. Their VLT% is typically higher than for the rear windows to leave the driver noticeable.
  • Rear-side window tint level – VLT% for these windows tinting is often low since its purpose is to protect passengers, usually kids, from the sun. Keep in mind that this value is typically not the same with cars and multi-purpose vehicles.
  • Color – States have different regulations regarding tint colors. In some cases, you can pick out any shade you want, while other states forbid particular colors or only reflective finishes.
  • AS-1 Line – This line extends from the mark stamped on most motor vehicle windshields. It goes parallel to the windshield top, and some states use it as a border for allowed tinting.

Medical reasons for allowing darker windows 

Some states have regulations allowing lower VLT% on all vehicle windows for medical reasons. A list of medical issues that require limiting UV light exposure for a driver or any passenger includes:

  • Sunlight allergy
  • Albinism
  • Photosensitivity
  • Psoriasis
  • Lupus
  • Pigmentosa
  • Melanoma
  • Rosacea
  • Porphyria
  • Xeroderma

This exemption applies to the particular car or individual, and it allows clear, colorless tint on windows. However, having a bubbled or torn film is forbidden because it obstructs the driver’s vision.

If you get medical exemptions and have tint installed, you must fulfill a few conditions to avoid getting a ticket.

  • A prescription or medical professional’s detailed letter about medical necessity available to control
  • A minimum allowed sunlight exposure percentage
  • A noted permit duration or prescription expiration date
  • A specific vehicle identification with allowed window tint exemption because of medical necessity

Other regulations regarding window tinting

Besides the required window tinting percentage, you need to follow a few other laws and regulations, such as:

  • You can tint a rear window only if you have dual side mirrors
  • Most states forbid some tint colors, like yellow, amber, red, and blue
  • Each film must come with a manufacturer certification containing its name and address and the same information about the installer
  • You must have this document in the car while driving

 

Tinted Windows from State-to-State

If you never leave your state, it will be enough to check the law and have your car windows tinted according to regulations. Unfortunately, the situation can get complicated if you travel a lot because what is allowed in your state can be punishable in another.

Allowed tint window percentage by state

State Window
Windshield Rear Front side Back side
Alabama 6 inches (15 cm) 32% 32% 32%
Alaska 5 inches (13 cm) 40% 70% 40%
Arizona To the top of the AS-1 line Any 33% Any
Arkansas 5 inches (13 cm) 10% 25% 25%
California 4 inches (10 cm) any 70% any
Colorado 4 inches (10 cm) 27% 27% 27%
Connecticut Non-reflective tint above the AS-1 line Any 35% 35%
Delaware Non-reflective tint above the AS-1 line Any 70% Any
Florida Non-reflective tint above the AS-1 line 15% 28% 15%
Georgia 6 inches (15 cm) 32% 32% 32%
Hawaii Must allow 70% of light 35% 35% 35%
Idaho To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 35% 20%
Illinois 6 inches (15 cm) 35% 35% 35%
Indiana To the top of the AS-1 line 30% 30% 30%
Iowa To the top of the AS-1 line Any 70% Any
Kansas To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 35% 35%
Kentucky To the top of the AS-1 line 18% 35% 18%
Louisiana To the top of the AS-1 line 12% 40% 25%
Maine 4 inches (10 cm) Any 35% Any
Maryland 5 inches (13 cm) 35% 35% 35%
Massachusetts 6 inches (15 cm) 35% 35% 35%
Michigan 4 inches (10 cm) Any Any, 4 inches (10 cm) from the window top Any
Minnesota Not allowed 50% 50% 50%
Mississippi To the top of the AS-1 line 28% 28% 28%
Missouri To the top of the AS-1 line Any 35% Any
Montana To the top of the AS-1 line 14% 24% 14%
Nebraska 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line 20% 35% 20%
Nevada To the top of the AS-1 line Any 35% Any
New Hampshire 6 inches (15 cm) 35% Not allowed 35%
New Jersey Not allowed Any Not allowed Any
New Mexico 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line 20% 20% 20%
New York 6 inches (15 cm) any 70% 70%
North Carolina To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 35% 35%
North Dakota Up to 70% Any 50% Any
Ohio Up to 70% Any 50% Any
Oklahoma 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line 25% 25% 25%
Oregon 6 inches (15 cm) 35% 35% 35%
Pennsylvania Not allowed 70% 70% 70%
Rhode Island To the top of the AS-1 line 70% 70% 70%
South Carolina To the top of the AS-1 line 27% 27% 27%
South Dakota To the top of the AS-1 line 20% 35% 20%
Tennessee To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 35% 35%
Texas 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line Any 25% 25%
Utah To the top of the AS-1 line Any 43% Any
Vermont To the top of the AS-1 line Any Not allowed Any
Virginia To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 50% 35%
Washington 6 inches (15 cm) 24% 24% 24%
Washington D.C. 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line 35% for multi-purpose vehicles

50% for cars

70% 35% for multi-purpose vehicles

50% for cars

West Virginia 5 inches (13 cm) 35% 35% 35%
Wisconsin To the top of the AS-1 line 35% 50% 35%
Wyoming 5 inches (13 cm) or AS-1 line 28% 28% 28%

A recent survey has shown that many drivers have an illegal window tinting level. Experts recommend regular controls since public safety is more important than someone’s privacy and vanity.

The question is what happens if you break window tinting laws, but there is no simple answer. It will depend on the state where you live. A police officer can pull you over, order you to remove too dark window film, and punish you according to the law.

 

Reasons For Tinting Windows

Vehicle window tinting has numerous advantages, but you need to have the film installed according to the law and regulations. The list of benefits includes:

  • Reducing UV rays and glare
  • Protecting vehicle interior
  • Health protection
  • Improving privacy and safety
  • Adding elegance to the car appearance

 

Summary

Most drivers enjoy driving cars with tinted windows, and experts claim that such a solution is healthy. However, some states don’t allow this option or have strict restrictions on the subject.

The primary reason is safety, but clear windows also make police officers’ jobs easier, particularly regarding suspicious activities and cell phone use checking.

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