I am often confronted with criminal defense cases that are initiated when a driver is pulled over for window tint. An example scenario goes like this: Officer pulls over driver for tint on front side windows. Officer smells marijuana in driver’s vehicle, detains driver, finds marijuana after a vehicle search, then charges driver with either possession or DUI.
Window tint laws in Pennsylvania are governed by 75 Pa.C.S. 4524 (e) which reads as follows:
(e) Sun screening and other materials prohibited.--
(1) 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.
A careful reading of the statute shows that window tint is not per se illegal under Pennsylvania law. Illegal tint is only tint that “does not permit a person to see” into the vehicle through the windshield or front side windows. This means that light window tint, or any window tint that still allows an officer to see into the vehicle, is permissible under 75 Pa.C.S. 4524 (e).
A case where the driver has light window tint and we can show that the tint still allowed the officer to see into the vehicle, would be ripe for a motion to suppress the traffic stop as the stop would be considered a violation of the driver’s constitutional rights.
A motion to suppress the traffic stop would be based upon the officer’s lack of reasonable suspicion to pull the vehicle over. In the motion, we would seek to suppress the traffic stop in its entirety – including the officer’s observations, any witness statements, and any evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful stop. This motion would be based on 4th, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution & Article 1 § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
On a side note, the window tint law further states that it does not apply if the tint was installed by the manufacturer or if the owner of the vehicle has a medical exception that allows the tint. While these exceptions are important, an officer would not know that the driver had an exception before the traffic stop. The Court views the traffic stop in the eyes of a “reasonable person” and the Court may find that the officer’s basis for the traffic stop is reasonable even where the tint in lawful or falls under an exception.
While I do not provide legal advice on my website or blog, I recommend that you remove any window tint from your front windshield and front side windows to minimize any inconvenience while driving.
For more information, please see the PennDOT Window Tint factsheet at the following link: https://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DVSPubsForms/BMV/BMV%20Fact%20Sheets/fs-sun.pdf
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact Philadelphia DUI Lawyer Michael F. Niznik for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 267-589-0601 or online at www.NiznikLaw.com.