MD Officers’ Dilemma: When Are Vehicle’s Tinted Windows Illegal?


Few police officers carry light meters, so what they do when they spot a window on a car that appears to have been tinted too much?
Maryland law says the amount of light transmitted through the glass cannot be less than 35 percent, says the Baltimore Sun. It can come down to a judgment call. Because this one can be quantified, if the officer is wrong, it should be a fairly easy ticket to get thrown out. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice didn’t get a ticket. An officer approached the vehicle in a shopping center parking lot and told him his tint was illegal. How did the officer know? Judges have generally sided with police more often than not on car stops for tinted windows, though a recent ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals does try to set some limits on their discretion.

In 2006, a sheriff’s deputy got a tip that a black Mercury Grand Marquis had drugs inside. He spotted the car but lacked a legal reason to make a traffic stop. At a well-lit intersection, the deputy “concluded that the rear window” of the car “was darker than normal,” the court said; the officer believed “he should have been able to see into the car.” A police dog alerted deputies to cocaine and marijuana hidden in the car, and the driver was arrested. The state’s highest court said the evidence should be supressed, saying officers can’t stop “any car with any tinted window, simply because it appears darker than an un-tinted window.” The 30 state troopers in the automotive safety enforcement division don’t have to guess. They carry light meters.

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