California Window Tint Laws
David Muñoz | September 20, 2022 | California Law
Window tinting is popular for many modern drivers. But did you know that it also serves a practical purpose? Tinted windows increase visibility and can protect your privacy. Despite its aesthetic and practical purposes, window tinting has been the subject of legislative action.
In 1999, California enacted window tint laws, which all drivers are required to follow. If you didn’t know about these laws, here is some information to get you up to speed.
The Basics of California Window Tint Laws
California’s window tint laws concern the percentage of visible light that can traverse a vehicle’s windows. This is referred to as Visible Light Transmission, or VLT for short. The percentage of allowable VLT in California differs depending on the window’s location on the vehicle.
Here are the locations and the allowable tint:
- Front Windshield: You can only tint the top four inches of the windshield
- Rear Windshield: Any tint is legal
- Aftermarket Front Side Windows: Over 88% VLT
- Factory-Installed Front Side Windows: 70% VLT
- Rear Side Windows: Any tint is legal
As you can see, there is a level of precision required in all tinting decisions.
The front windshield is only allowed to have the top four inches tinted because drivers are expected to maintain a clear, unobstructed view of the road. The strip across the top blocks incoming light from the driver’s field of vision and must be non-reflective so as not to visually distract other drivers.
With front-side windows, you are not allowed anything below 88%. However, if you use aftermarket film over factory-tinted windows, you are allowed a 70% VLT rating.
More on VLT
VLT is a fairly straightforward system. A window with a 75% rating allows 75% of light to pass through, a window with 50% allows 50% of light to pass through, and so on. It is important to remember that the tint gets darker as the VLT numbers get lower.
Violating California’s window tinting laws comes with incremental penalties. The first offense carries a $25 fine and an order to remove the offending tint. However, you could be hit with an infraction and fined up to $197. On the bright side, the state will not deduct points from your driving record for tint violations.
Window Tints and Accident Settlements
For example, if your window tint is beyond the legal limit and someone hits you, a percentage of the fault could still be placed on you if it is determined that the excess tinting affected your visibility. In turn, this could impact any damages you might be awarded.
Tinted windows also affect regulations pertaining to other aspects of the vehicle. These include side mirrors, tint colors, and tint documentation. These regulations are designed to assure visibility and compliance with state law.
If your rear window is tinted, you are legally required to have dual side mirrors so you can see around your vehicle.
California does not allow tinting in shades of amber, blue, or red — any other color is allowed.
If your windows are tinted, the state mandates that you carry manufacturer certification for your tint to demonstrate that the manufacturer of the film used for the tint complied with state law. You could face additional penalties if pulled over without this documentation.
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