Tinted car window law varies by state and failure to abide by the law can get you into legal trouble. As was the case in Pennsylvania where Manual Rodriguez and Roger C. Metzgar were charged with felony perjury and related crimes in a case arising from window tinting one of their cars and the use of an emergency light bar.
Rodriguez was driving a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria when he was approached by county detectives in Stroudsburg. Under Pennsylvania law, constables’ vehicles may not have lights that resemble emergency vehicles or tinted windows, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
The second constable charged is Roger C. Metzgar. He founded the nonprofit group, the Defiance Search and Rescue. Investigators believe the search and rescue team was formed, with constables comprising much of its membership, “for the purpose of circumventing the restriction” on emergency lights, the release states. Rodriguez claimed to be a member of the group, authorizing him to have the blue-flashing light, the district attorney’s office said in a news release.
Rodriguez and Metzgar received a perjury felony count for lying under oath. Rodriguez is also charged with three misdemeanors: attempted obstruction of justice, plus two counts of false swearing.
So, what is the law on tinted car windows in Pennsylvania?
While it is not illegal to drive a vehicle with tinted windows in Pennsylvania, you should know that the law is very specific about this. The most important thing to understand is what is called visible light transmission. This term refers to the percent of visible light allowed through vehicle windows.
There are two statutes that determine the issue of window tinting. 75 Pa.C.S.A.§ 4524(e), titled Windshield Obstructions and Wipers, states that “no person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sun screening device or other material which does not permit a person to see or view the inside of the vehicle through the windshield, side wing, or side window of the vehicle.”
This leaves the matter of window tinting pretty ambiguous, though. Just what is the criterion for deciding the lack of requisite visibility? Personal discretion?
To answer the question, we must turn to 75 Pa.C.S.A. §4107, titled Unlawful Activities. According to this statute, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania “which is not equipped as required under department regulations or when the driver is in violation of department regulations.” It follows that vehicles in Pennsylvania must comply with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regulations. Those concerning sunscreening devices are found at 67 Pa.Code chapter 175, et. seq. These regulations prohibit use of sunscreening devices that don’t permit a person to see into the vehicle (i.e., the same standard as the first law we noted), but also incorporate Table X (listed below) into the specific requirements of the vehicle. Table X shows the minimum permissible light transmittance levels (70%) for window tinting.
|Front Side Rear Side||Rear Side|
|Vehicle Type||Windshield||Windows/Wings||Windows/Wings||Rear Window|
|Pre-1998 Passenger Cars||70%||70%||70%||VESC-20*|
|1998 & Newer Passenger Cars||70%||70%||70%||70%|
|Trucks & Multi-Purpose|
|70%||70%||No Requirement||No Requirement|
|Medium/Heavy Trucks & Buses||70%||70%||No Requirement||No Requirement|
|All Other Vehicles||70%||70%||No Requirement||No Requirement|
Some police departments use a device called a tint meter. It can determine how much light is passing through vehicle windows. Drivers found in violation of the minimum requirement may be stopped and cited. Fines can be as high as $110.
Pennsylvania allows medical exemptions for special tint. Other exceptions include emergency, government, or any vehicle with a valid certificate of exemption.
Lastly, you should understand that tinted windows, like being covered with tattoos and piercings, inevitably function to draw attention to yourself, and, whether rightly or wrongly, are commonly associated with negative activity. When a person lowers his voice to a whisper, the natural response is: “What’s he trying to hide?” Likewise with tinted windows. If you have them, expect to be viewed with suspicion, including by police. And if you are drinking and driving, or doing any other illegal activity while behind the wheel, then you are being especially reckless.