In California, many drivers add window tint to their vehicles because of the heat reduction benefits. Window tint is also popular for privacy and the enhanced appearance of the vehicle. Whatever the reason a driver chooses to modify their vehicle with window tint, it’s a good idea to be aware of the laws in California to avoid fines and other legal consequences.
The darkness of the car windows, sometimes referred to as the visible light transmission (VLT) percentage, is regulated in California. The less light that passes through the window, the lower the VLT percentage is and the darker the window. State laws differentiate between front windshield, front side windows, rear side windows, and rear window when designating the allowable VLT percentage.
Here is an overview of the regulations for each of a car’s windows.
No window tinting is allowed on the windshield aside from the sun strip, which is a narrow section of tint across the top of the windshield. This strip must be four inches or less in height, and there is often a mark on each windshield that shows the lowest point the tint can go.
The front windows on the driver’s and passenger’s sides of a vehicle cannot have window tint that blocks more than 70% of light. Tint darker than this could create issues with visibility, so substantially dark tinting is prohibited in California.
Requirements for the back side windows and rear window are less strict than for the front windows. In fact, any level of tint is acceptable on a car’s back side windows and rear window. Reflective window films can also be applied to these windows.
In addition to the darkness of the window tint, Vehicle Code § 26708 also states that the tinting material must be designed to block the sun’s ultraviolet A rays, and any window material with bubbles or tears must be removed. Drivers must have a certificate from the installing company that certifies the windows meet the state’s standards.
There are some exceptions to these rules, such as medical conditions that necessitate a darker tint. If you have a medical condition that requires increased sun protection or some other health issue that requires you to have a dark window tint, you must have a letter from a physician that indicates your condition and the level of VLT that is recommended.
These laws apply only to personal, non-commercial vehicles. Taxi cabs, limousines, and other commercial vehicles have separate regulations for window tinting.
Vehicle Code § 26708 states that the color of the window tint on front windshields must not be red or amber. Front side windows must have clear and colorless material. Further, opaque lettering of any color is prohibited as it blocks visibility.
It may be possible to beat a ticket for improper window tint if you or your attorney can build a strong defense against the charges. If you can prove the following, you could be successful in having your charges dropped or being found not guilty:
- The window tint did not cause an obstruction
- You have an allowed exemption
- The officer did not have probable cause
The window tint code also includes regulations on objects placed in a window that obstruct your view. If you can show that nothing was obstructing the visibility, you have a good chance of successfully defending the charge.
Some sun screening devices are allowed to be hung from side windows, and there can be medical exemptions when a physician certifies it is necessary. Building your defense based on your exemptions is a good defense strategy.
Police must have probable cause before detaining or arresting you. If you were pulled over and charged for improper window tint without probable cause, the evidence collected by police may be excluded, which could lead to your charge being dismissed.
The first time a driver is pulled over for violating California’s window tint laws, they will likely receive a warning. Officers often issue warnings for these traffic violations, informing the driver that they need to address the issue right away. The next incident of tint violation will result in a $25 fine and an order to take the tint off the windows. A subsequent offense could lead to being charged with a traffic infraction and a fine of $197.
It is not guaranteed that the consequences will go in this order, however. A police officer may decide to charge you with a traffic infraction after the first incident rather than issue a warning.
If you are involved in an accident, and your window tint violates state regulations, this could be used in the accident case as a possible contributing factor. Dark window tint reduces visibility during the day and even more so at night or when driving in inclement weather. If a judge decides that your window tint did contribute to the accident, you could be held liable for any damages from the accident.
Contact The Accident Network Law Group to discuss your window tint infraction or accident claim. We can help you build a strong defense and prepare for what’s to come in your case. Call us at (951) 554-1010 to schedule a free consultation.