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

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.

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 at (717) 268-4287.

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