Window Tint Laws

Are you looking for US automobile tinting laws? Look no further. Below is a table of US States. Click on your state in the table below to read your state’s auto tint laws. Further below are common definitions and general facts you’ll need to know to fully understand US tint laws. The US is a federalist country. This means that there are federal, state, and local levels of government. Federal tint laws only apply to commercial vehicles. This site only covers state tint laws. Check with your municipal for local tint laws.

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Window Tint Law Basics

State window tinting laws regulate the darkness, location, color, and reflectance of after-market window tinting, or tinting that is applied after the vehicle has been sold, and not by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Window tinting laws may also exempt certain people, vehicles, or windows from the law or specific parts of the law. State tinting laws vary however, with some elements common to the majority; such as the definitions for frequently used words, the honoring of other state’s laws for vehicles registered there, and the provision of a medical exemption to those who must be shaded from the sun’s rays.

Common Definitions

Many of the terms used when discussing window tinting are defined in the same way in every state that offers a definition. These terms include:

  • Visible light transmission (“VLT”). The ratio of the amount of total light, expressed in percentages, which is allowed to pass through a product or material to the amount of total light falling on the product or material.
  • Luminous reflectance. The ratio of the amount of total light, expressed in percentages, which is reflected, rather than absorbed, by the tinting material.
  • Nonreflective material is tinting designed to absorb rather than reflect the light.
  • AS-1, AS1, or AS/1 line. This is a line on the top of the front windshield, usually marked by the vehicle manufacturer, above which is commonly called the shade band.
  • Sun screening device. Many state laws refer to window tinting as a sun screening device.
  • Multipurpose passenger vehicle. A motor vehicle designed to carry ten persons or less which is constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation

Tinting Darkness and Reflectance

The visible light transmission (“VLT”) of a tinting material describes how dark the tinting is, or how much light it allows through. All states regulate the level of VLT allowed on each window of a vehicle. The more light that is allowed to pass through a tinting material, the higher the VLT will be and the lighter the tinting will appear. So for example tinting with a VLT of 75% will be much lighter than tinting with a VLT of 25%.

The amount of luminous reflectance of a tinting material is regulated by most states which allow for a reflectance of more than 35%.

A handful of states allow for a tolerance of 3% to 9% when measuring VLT and reflectance. So for example, in a state with a 3% tolerance and a minimum VLT of 25%, your tinting VLT may measure 3% less than the minimum, or 22%.

Colored Window Tinting

Approximately 1/3 of the states do not allow certain colors of tinting; usually red, yellow, and amber, but a few states also ban other colors.

To Whom the Law Applies

In all states, window tinting laws apply only to those whose vehicle is registered within the state. However, out of state drivers are usually required to have tinting that is in compliance with their own state laws in order to avoid a citation.

Most states provide a medical exemption to those who have a condition that requires they be shielded from the sun. The process for obtaining an exemption varies, with some states only requiring that you keep a signed and dated statement from a licensed physician stating that you have a medical condition that requires you to tint your windows darker than the law allows, and others requiring that you complete an application, attach a statement from your doctor, and wait for approval. Some states also charge a small fee for application processing. Information on medical exemptions can generally be obtained by visiting your local license branch or department of motor vehicles. Currently only Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Dakota do not offer a medical exemption from state window tinting laws.

Many states exempt law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, and hearses from parts of the window tinting law. Several states also allow limousines or other vehicles for hire, pick-up trucks, busses, and multi-passenger vehicles to have tinting on the rear side windows and the back windshield that is darker than the law allows.

Other Restrictions and Requirements

Many states require vehicles with window tinting on the rear windshield to have outside rear view mirrors (commonly called side view mirrors) on both sides of the vehicle. When the law requires side view mirrors, it generally also requires that the mirrors be adjusted so the driver can see for at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.

Several states require vehicles with tinted windows to display a sticker, provided by the tinting manufacturer or installer, on a specific window of the vehicle. The sticker usually must list the name of the tinting manufacturer or installer and a statement that the tinting complies with the current law.

Traffic Stops

Almost all states allow a law enforcement officer to stop a vehicle when he or she reasonably believes that the vehicle’s window tinting does not comply with the law.  Case law says that a reasonable belief is one that can be articulated and is reasonable considering the specific circumstances surrounding the traffic stop. So, if an officer sees a vehicle at night from a good distance away, in an unlit area, and decides the tinting is in violation of the law, the stop might not be as reasonable as if he or she saw it during the day, while driving beside it on a highway. A common articulated reason for stopping a vehicle for a window tinting violation is that the officer could see into the vehicle.

Penalties for Violating State Window Tinting Laws

The penalty for violating window tinting laws is a fine in all states, with the amount of the fine ranging from $10 to $5000. About ½ of the states can also jail you for a few days for a violation of the window tinting law. A few states will also order the removal of the tinting, but most do not. However, many states fee schedule allows for an increased fine and/or amount of jail time for each violation that occurs within the same 12 month period.

Federal Window Tinting Law

Federal codes governing window glazing and tinting changes rapidly and is written for tinting and vehicle manufacturers and tinting installers, and not the end consumers, so you should check with a licensed window tinting manufacturer or installer to be sure that your tint complies with federal law.