Window Tint Laws: The Most and Least Restrictive States

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If you think one window tint is just like another, guess again. Depending on the state, the laws can vary widely on which panes can be darkened, and by how much. Here’s a quick sampling of the laws in different state jurisdictions to demonstrate just how uniquely the subject is treated across the country. It may make a big difference on that cross-country road trip!

California

Well known for strict safety regulations, especially as it relates to motor vehicles, the Golden State has one of the most onerous window tint laws in the country. As with most states, the back side windows and the rear window are not subject to any restrictions on darkness, but they cannot be more reflective than a standard screen, meaning that a mirror finish will get you a ticket in a hurry. California only allows non-reflective darkening on the top four inches of the front windshield and the front side windows, and the cover must allow at least 70% of the light through. If you get pulled over for a violation, the first offense is a fairly minor affair. The police will cite you with a “fix it” ticket, requiring you to bring the glass into compliance within a specified period and pay a nominal $25 fine. If you fail to comply with this initial citation, however, the second stop could cost up to $200.

Michigan

Up in the Great Lakes state, the northern sun can hit you right between the eyes in the summer. But you’ll have to invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses if you want to completely block it out. Like almost every state, Michigan doesn’t place any restrictions on the level of shading that a driver can have on the rear and back side panels, but it also doesn’t apply its standard as a percentage of sunlight that can be let through. On the front windshield as well as the front side panes, a driver can only have a strip of coverage for the top four inches. This makes the law much easier to enforce since officers don’t have to make a guess of how much light is being let through. Earlier this year, an interstate drug smuggler was busted after he took a ride from Wisconsin, where a 50% standard is used, and he was promptly pulled over. Michigan does make an exception for people with medical needs who are more sensitive than normal to light.

New Mexico

The land of enchantment is also the land of searing desert heat. In the summers, the days can climb well into the triple digits for weeks on end. In that heat, cars sitting out in the sun can become ovens. It’s understandable, then, that New Mexico has the least restrictive window tint regulations in the country. On all sides but the front, a driver’s panes need only let in 20% sunlight, essentially limousine level.

If you’re driving across the country, pay attention to these laws!

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