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California Window Tint Laws [2021 Update]

California has had window tint laws since 1999.

They have been updated a few times over the years, with the most recent changes in 2018.

So what are the window tint laws in California?

Different windows require different tint allowances, and aside from the tint allowances, you’ll have to be acquainted with a few other rules and regulations before applying tint to your windows.

Don’t worry.

You’ll soon see the light as we go through everything you need to know about California’s window tint laws, and answer the question on everyone’s mind, “can you get pulled over for tint in California?”

Why Window Tint Laws?

Window tint laws are controversial.

Opponents say window tint laws infringe on privacy rights, while supporters say it makes our roads and communities safer.

California has a window tint law for the following reasons:

  • There is evidence that tinted windows can obstruct the driver’s vision and cause severe and sometimes fatal crashes.
  • Tinted windows provide cover for abductions, kidnappings, or carjackers.
  • Tinted windows protect drivers engaged in illegal activity and can hide their identity from security or red-light cameras.

What is VLT?

California window tint laws use something called a VLT, which stands for Visible Light Transmission.

VLT is a percentage of visible light that can pass through a window.

Different states have different VLT regulations.

Higher VLT numbers mean more light can pass through.

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For example, a 25% VLT rating is a darker window than a window with a 70% rating.

What are California’s VLT restrictions?

Vehicles in California are divided into two categories: passenger vehicles and multi-purpose vehicles.

While the required VLT may differ on these two vehicles in some states, in California, the rules and regulations are the same for either type of vehicle.

The VLT regulations corresponding to every car window are as follows:

  • Front Windshield: You can apply only Non-reflective on the top 4 inches of the windshield.
  • Front-seat side windows: You may apply 88% tint darkness if using aftermarket film or 70% tint darkness if combined with factory-tinted windows.
  • Back seat side windows: You may use any tint darkness
  • Rear window: You may use any tint darkness

**It is important to note that if you tint your rear window, the law also requires that you install dual side mirrors.

Other Restrictions

In correspondence to the above laws on VLT percentage, you must adhere to the following:

  • Though mostly all tint colors are allowed in the state of California, they prohibit red, amber, and blue tint. It is also against the law to use any colored tint on your side windows.
  • Manufacturers must certify the film that they sell in California. The tint manufacturer’s name and address must be present on the driver’s tint certificate, and the law requires them to have this in their possession at all times.
  • The state law requires a sticker or certificate from the installation company.
  • California strictly prohibits any materials such as stickers, decorations, or torn tint that can obstruct the driver’s view on front side windows.
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Medical Exemptions to California Tint Laws

One of the most recent changes to California’s window tint law was an amendment that allows for medical exemptions.

Some drivers have skin or eye conditions that require protection from the sun’s powerful UV rays.

With a signed document from a licensed dermatologist, optometrist, or physician, these drivers can apply to get permission to use a darker tint on their windows.

However, these tints are only legal during daylight hours, rendering your vehicle useless at nightfall.

Another stipulation is that drivers who need UV protection use only clear and colorless material on the windshield.

Drivers must fill out the Window Tint Exemption Application Form in order to receive their certification.

Once certified, remember to have your certification with you in the vehicle at all times.

Can You Get Pulled Over for Tint in California?

California state police are authorized to pull over and inspect any vehicle they feel may be breaking the window tint law, and they are pretty strict about it.

It doesn’t matter if you have a car, truck, or van. Multi-purpose vehicles fall under the same restrictions.

First-time offenders may get what’s called a “fix-it” ticket, which forces the vehicle owner to remove the illegal tint.

If that doesn’t happen and they pull you over a second time, you can get a fine of $25 and another order to remove the window tinting.

Police can also charge multiple offenders with an infraction that can come with a fine of almost $200.

You won’t be assessed points on your DMV record.

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However, if the police pull you over because your window tints are too dark, police do not have the authority to search your vehicle.

Police need probable cause, and tinted windows do not meet that criterion.

Final Thoughts

There are several beneficial reasons for you to tint your windows.

Some of these benefits include extra protection against harmful UV rays, increased safety from blinding sunlight, and even the longevity of the interior of your vehicle.

You must follow the state rules and regulations to legally reap the benefits of window tint in California, though.

California is always updating and amending its driving laws, so if you’re unsure of the most recent laws, you can visit your local branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles, visit the State of California DMV website, or visit your local law enforcement agency.

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