Some drivers opt to get additional tinting for their car windows beyond the factory specifications. Extra tinting will block radiant heat to keep the car temperature cooler, while others think that darker windows will just make the car look cooler. However, Michigan statutes impose limits on how dark those windows can be before it amounts to a violation of the law.
A person cannot operate a motor vehicle in Michigan with any of the following:
- “A sign, poster, nontransparent material, window application, reflective film, or nonreflective film upon or in the front windshield, the side windows immediately adjacent to the driver or front passenger, or the sidewings adjacent to and forward of the driver or front passenger, except that a tinted film may be used along the top edge of the windshield and the side windows or sidewings immediately adjacent to the driver or front passenger if the material does not extend more than 4 inches from the top of the windshield, or lower than the shade band, whichever is closer to the top of the windshield.” MCL 257.709(1)(a).
- “A rear window or side window to the rear of the driver composed of, covered by, or treated with a material that creates a total solar reflectance of 35% or more in the visible light range, including a silver or gold reflective film.” MCL 257.709(1)(b).
- “An object that obstructs the vision of the driver of the vehicle, except as authorized by law.” MCL 257.709(1)(c).
These restrictions do NOT apply to any of the following:
- “The use of draperies, louvers, or other special window treatments, except those specifically designated in this section, on the rear window, or a side window to the rear of the driver if the vehicle is equipped with 2 outside rearview mirrors, 1 on each side, adjusted so that the driver has a clear view of the highway behind the vehicle.” MCL 257.709(3)(a).
- “The use of a nonreflective, smoked or tinted glass, nonreflective film, perforated window screen, or other decorative window application on the rear window or a side window to the rear of the driver.” MCL 257.709(3)(b).
- “The placement of a necessary certificate or sticker that does not obstruct the driver’s clear view of the roadway or an intersecting roadway.” MCL 257.709(3)(c). These necessary certificates include, but are not limited to, temporary license plates affixed to the rear windshield.
- “A vehicle registered in another state, territory, commonwealth of the United States, or another country or province.” MCL 257.709(3)(d).
- “A special window treatment or application determined necessary by a physician or optometrist, for the protection of a person who is light sensitive or photosensitive, if the owner or operator of a motor vehicle has in possession a letter signed by a physician or optometrist, indicating that the special window treatment or application is a medical necessity. However, the special window treatment or application shall not interfere with or obstruct the driver’s clear vision of the highway or an intersecting highway.” MCL 257.709(3)(e).
What constitutes “total solar reflectance” requires some expertise and science to calculate with any degree of precision. If you do insist on getting window tints, it is advisable to do so with a licensed professional that can use a photometer to ensure compliance with the law. However, darker tints are allowed if prescribed by a physician to deal with a “medical necessity” such as lupus, melanoma or some other sunlight allergy. This medical documentation should always remain in the vehicle to present to the police officer at a traffic stop.
Whether a vehicle’s windows are too dark is a judgment call by the police. Keep in mind that excessive tinting can be a pretext for a traffic stop which leads to a vehicle search that discovers illegal drugs or other contraband. An amateur window tinting job attracting police attention could possibly lead to additional crimes even if the driver is not aware of the contents in the vehicle. Before considering a tint enhancement to your windows, it is worth remembering that sometimes it pays to be unmemorable.
Obstructed vision or obstructed windshield due to excessive window tinting is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. In addition, this violation will add two points to your Michigan driving record. A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. The burden is on the prosecutor to show that your tinted windows exceed the legal limits and the evidence often relies on the police officer’s opinion. Several variables can cause the case to tip in your favor, including the lack of witnesses at the hearing, the police officer’s inability to remember the vehicle, or lack of proof (e.g. no photographs) that the windows were too dark. Before you consider just admitting responsibility, remember that too many points on your Michigan driving record can lead to consequences such as reexamination by the Secretary of State or even license suspension.
An experienced traffic lawyer may be able to help you reduce this allegation to an offense with no points or obtain a dismissal outright. If you or a loved one is charged with a tinted window violation or any other traffic offense, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak for assistance today.