In the law profession, there are lots of myths, urban legends and just plain old BS floating around out there. One of the most popular questions we as personal injury attorneys get asked is, ‘can a cop pull me over because of my tinted windows'?
Yes, they can. And if a cop needs a reason to pull you over for anything – whether it relates to the dark tint on your car or he suspects you of some other illegal activity – you can bet he will use your tint as a reason.
Let's start off with this assumption. If you do get pulled over, it's presumably for some good reason. Maybe a cop saw you pull an illegal u-turn, your stereo is too loud or some other thing – like your windows having illegal tint. You can also assume that the police officer in that situation – and I know this may shock some of you – is not looking out for your best interests. Their job is to investigate any potential illegal issue that triggered you getting pulled over, and they will do whatever they can to make sure they aren't wasting their time over a useless stop.
What happens next is determined by 2 factors – what you say or don't say to the cop, and what energy the cop is willing to expend to stick you with some sort of infraction, either small or large. A burnt-out license plate light can turn into a much bigger issue. Illegal window tint can develop into a major confrontation with law enforcement.
The laws enacted to make tint illegal if it is too dark stem from the Florida Highway Patrol, and their position that their officers could not see into vehicles during a traffic stop, and therefore could not tell if someone in the car was reaching for a weapon, or maybe had drugs or alcohol in the car. Since the laws were adapted, FHP and most other Florida law enforcement agencies claim that they have taken more bad guys off the street – bad guys who initially were pulled over for their tint being too dark, and were subsequently busted for much more serious offenses.
And that's a good thing.
FHP says that about 10% to 20% of their road officers carry a little gadget that supposedly measures the darkness and reflectiveness of your tint, called a VLT meter, for Visible Light Transmission. Other police agencies around Southwest Florida have some of them on the road, too. So you know, there are 2 units of measurement that apply to tint on your car – darkness and reflectiveness. Current Florida law says that your front passenger windows need to allow 28% or more of light through the glass, and the rear passenger and back windows must allow at least 15% or more. Your front passenger windows also must not be more than 25% reflective, and the back, no more than 35%. (The numbers are slightly different for SUVs and Vans).
If you get pulled over, the cop will usually ask if you know why he stopped you. At this precise moment, your future can be decided. What you say – or don't say – can determine how the whole thing goes down, and whether your night may be spent in the Graybar hotel.
We have posted blogs about your rights under the law, and how they relate to what you say during a traffic stop. It is entirely possible that even though your initial instinct is to try to “talk your way out' of your presumed trouble with the law, doing so will only make things worse. The cop is evaluating your words, and he may just assume you're guilty of something, based on other people he has pulled over in the past, the address, (or lack thereof), on your ID, or the part of town in which you got pulled over. Let's look at the facts; the cop who pulled you over does not honestly care what happens to you as a result. He or she may have developed the presumed ‘evidence' in charging you with a crime based on something they did not fully understand. And whatever they say – or don't say – in their report will be taken as the truth by the people who read it.
The bottom line is you DO have the right to just shut up. Without being unruly or providing any type of obstruction, you can calmly insist that you prefer not to say anything further without the advice of a lawyer. Might this give a cop an increased suspicion about you, giving him reason to ramp up his interaction with you? Yes, it might. But, the consequences of that tactic may have far less serious repercussions than initiating a long-winded explanation to each of the cop's questions.
Any good tint shop knows the laws, and they'll be held accountable if it's found that they installed illegal tint on your car. Still, many others operate under the radar, and will install whatever you ask for – just don't expect a receipt, and bring cash.
So, it's your call – if you think the ‘cool factor' of blacked-out windows outweighs the potential for a bad interaction with the cops, you take the risk. And even with legal tint, you still may get pulled over – a dark interior and lack of light at night can be all a cop needs to check you out with his VLT meter.
The criminal defense and personal injury attorneys at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone have a complete knowledge of your rights under the law, and work every day in tirelessly standing up for them. We know there are many factors related to getting arrested, and our job is to ensure you are aggressively and fully represented. If you or someone you know is in trouble, we can help. Call us at 239-461-5508, or use our simple contact form, and find out how easy it is to learn more about having our more than 80-years combined legal experience on your side.
And if you're not sure your car windows are legally tinted or not, stop by a reputable tint shop and ask them to check them for you.