Window Tint Laws
Whatever your reason for wanting tinted windows on your car, truck, or other passenger vehicle, you should get familiar with laws that regulate vehicle window tinting, as well as exemptions under those laws. Here you will find basic information on window tinting laws, “medical necessity” exemptions, and more.
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. The applicable vehicle code section in your state may discuss vehicle window tinting as “Material Obstructing or Reducing Driver’s View” (in California), “Windshields and windows obscured by non-transparent materials” (in Massachusetts), or “Sun-shading or tinting films or applications” (in Virginia).
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 usually 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 (i.e. a plastic shade device on a passenger side window, held in place with suction cups).
Most state laws on vehicle window tinting are concerned mainly with the levels of “light transmittance” or “luminous reflectance” that the vehicle’s safety glass allows — meaning how much light can get through and how much visibility the glass allows. So, if the windows on a vehicle are tinted to such a degree that the amount of light that can come through is below the amount identified under state law (i.e. 75% light transmittance), then the vehicle does not comply with the state’s vehicle code, and the vehicle’s owner will be issued 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 contain opaque or mirrored material, or “one-way” glass.
(More information: State-Specific Information on Vehicle Window Tint Laws)
Does Your Vehicle’s Window Tinting Violate Your State’s Laws?
Measurements like “light transmittance” and “luminous reflectance” can be difficult to understand, let alone 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 — most likely using a light transmission-measuring device called a photometer — to determine 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 (Get state-specific DMV information here). 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.
Get more information about window tint laws in your state: State-Specific Information on Vehicle Window Tint Laws.
“Medical Necessity” Exemptions to Window Tint Laws
Many state vehicle window tinting laws contain exemptions for people (drivers or frequent passengers in a specific vehicle) 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:
- Sunlight allergy
Typically, if a vehicle is stopped for a window tint-related traffic violation, in order to qualify for the medical exemption and avoid a citation, the affected driver or passenger must present the law enforcement officer with documentation that:
- Identifies the medical necessity (this can be a prescription or detailed letter from a medical professional);
- States the specific amount of sunlight exposure (i.e. minimum percentage of light transmittance reduction) that will satisfy the medical needs of the affected driver or passenger;
- Contains a prescription expiration date or permit duration;
- Identifies the specific vehicle(s) to which the “medical necessity” window tint exemption applies.