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What's the Deal with "Window Tint?" Is it Legal or Not?

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Window tinting is legal, even if it isn't factory, as long as a person can see through it to the inside.  But, that won't stop you from getting pulled over.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Drug Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

I recently wrote a blog article about 'pre-textual stops' and window tint.  Police will use the existence of window tint as a basis to pull someone over to check them or their vehicle for illegal narcotics or contraband.  A pretext is a false premise.  You've committed one violation of the law (I think), but I'm going to use that as a reason to stop you and check you for another type of violation.  A commentator to my blog was correct and pointed out that window tint is not a crime unless the police cannot see into the interior of the vehicle.  But there's more to this story.

A police officer can have a reasonable suspicion of a Vehicle Code violation, justifying an investigatory stop, where the officer observes that the windows on a vehicle are tinted to a degree that would violate the Vehicle Code.  With certain exceptions for tinted windows or certain types of vehicles, motor vehicles may not have any sun screening device or other material that does not permit a person to see or view the inside of the vehicle through the windshield, side wing window or side window of the vehicle.  Although PennDOT has established standards concerning the allowable tinting of vehicle windows, it is not a violation of the vehicle code if those standards are not complied with.

Here's what the PA Vehicle Code says about window tint:

75 Pa.C.S. § 4524(e)(1); Sun screening and other materials prohibited.-- (1) No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sun screening device or other material which does not permit a person to see or view the inside of the vehicle through the windshield, side wing or side window of the vehicle. (emphasis added).

The 'take away' from this is that the police may still pull you over for a violation of the Vehicle Code for window tint.  However, they must not be able to see inside the vehicle for it to be a violation of the law.  They may provide you with a warning or cite you.  Under no circumstances, however, should you provide the police with consent to search you or your vehicle based upon a stop for a 'window tint' violation.  It's a common bogus reason used by police because they believe that people with window-tinted cars have illegal drugs.

If you've been pulled over and cited for a window tint violation only to have your car searched for drugs, contact an experienced Drug Defense Team at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

4 Comments

It's a good question they should be illgeal since the cops won't be able to see if you have them. They should make a law to ban tinted windows. If a person still wants them their should be a higher price to pay when being pulled over.

Dear Ms. Pasqualini
I am s Bucks County attorney and I stumbled upon your blog while doing research for a suppression issue based on tint. My officer said he could see inside but upon testing the tint was over the 70 percent as stated in the Pa Code. Client was charged with failure to obey a Penndot regulation rather that cited gor the illegal tint citation. You state that it is not a violation of the vehicle code if the tint exceeds penndots regs. Do you have any authority for that?
Your help would be most appreciated.
Ellis Klein, Esquire
Young, Klein and Associates
Bensalem PA

Also - do you handle governor's pardons? I get calls but have no one to refer.

I have a criminal case in carbon county Pa for a accident I reported my car stole and was told it was involved in a accident. The police ran ownership and showed not the victim in case a stander by after accident a photo of me the defendant in prison uniform from13 years ago to the witness who is believed to work for the correctional facility in the county of carbon after i was there he was believed to be hired and don't know me by face and this one witness is all the Summit Hill police are useing to try to convict me of a crime OTN# T237901-6 Lansford Pa Carbon County Preliminary set for 10/24/2012 at 1 45 pm still no Public Defender appointed in my case intentional delay. These charges were filed only after the Carbon County employed towing company impounded my car and let my windows open and rain flooded my car I filed a civil complaint on 09/08/2012 charges signed by ada Greek on 09/13/2012 in retaliation as he lives or has private practice in same town of about 500 people pop. and is personal friends with witness and arresting officer and friends with towing company. key in mind damage of cars where never exaimed to determine why I had no injuries the next morning at police station to report car stole and no seat belt injuries due to impact would show by way of MRI none of this was done and per damage of car mine viewed i would of had injuries to my body noticable by police at time of interview an witness interview would show bias and viewing me in one photo in prison garb from 13 years ago.

Driver Beware
If traveling Route 80 in PA they pull people over for window tint Spent almost an hour at mile marker 161 for window tint violation and they could see inside our vehicle plain as day. Questioned my wife, full pat down and search including inside shoes then 101 questions. Where you going, who are seeing, how long are you staying, why are you going etc. Then came do you have large sum of money, drugs, or weapons inside the vehicle. Would you wouldn't mind if we search your car then?
We later learned this is a common practice because the police believe RT 80 is the corridor for drug traffic and they routinely pull over people based on type of car, tinted windows, out of state plates, etc. We now know what to do and not do when and if his happens again..

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