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Three Things You Need To Know About Tinting Your Windows And Criminal Law

In some parts of the Country, such as Arizona, window tint is essential to keeping a car at a reasonable temperature to cool in the summer.  However, any tinting that is not done at the factory may make you subject to a traffic stop, ticket, and be a basis for other criminal charges. The legal reason is a darkly tinted side and back window impairs law enforcement officers from making safety decisions about vehicles and the occupants they encounter in daily activities.

For this reason, and first, the General Assembly passed a law (it does not apply to manufacturer’s tinting) makes it a traffic infraction to have sun screening material on side and back auto windows that prohibits the occupants of the vehicle from being easily identified or recognized from outside the vehicle.

Second, it is a defense if the after-market tinting has a total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than twenty-five percent (25%) as measured on the non-film side and light transmittance of at least thirty percent (30%) in the visible light range.  Ind.Code 9-19-19-4.  This does not prohibit a traffic stop.

The third and key to tinting is even if it is within the permissible range, if a police officer cannot adequately see the occupants of the vehicle, the Indiana Supreme Court has held it provides reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.  Sanders v. State, 989 N.E.2d 332 (2013).  With this, if the police officer observes the driver is drunk, smells marijuana, or otherwise comes upon crimes, there is no basis to suppress the stop as illegal.

This means any evidence obtained by the stop may be used by the state to prosecute crimes against the driver and occupants.

Therefore, while window tinting is always a choice, this may create a legal basis for the driver to be stopped.  Always consider adding aftermarket parts to your car. Like everything else in life, there are risks and benefits.

We hope this blog post informs you of your legal rights as it relates to police-citizen encounters. If it has, this blog post has met its educational objective.   This blog post was written by criminal defense attorney Bryan L. Ciyou.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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