Window tint laws might seem confusing. We explain them in this blog post.
Having the wrong percentage window tint on your vehicle could lead to major problems. Frequently, criminal charges begin with police stopping a vehicle. That vehicle could be swerving in and out of lanes, it could be speeding, or it could have other issues that lead police to believe that there is an active violation of traffic laws. Sometimes, one of those other reasons is based on the fact that the tint of the windows is too dark.
Sometimes this leads to a ticket for violating the law regarding window tint. If officers smell booze on your breath, it could lead to an OWI investigation and charges. Or, if police officers smell fresh or recently burnt marijuana, it could lead a search of your vehicle and serious, felony-level drug charges. A simple stop for having your window tints too dark can lead to very serious criminal issues.
And that’s why it’s certainly important for you to understand if your tint is too dark or you have the wrong windows tinted. Our criminal attorneys have a significant amount of experience challenging illegal police stops of vehicles. We’d like to help you avoid getting stopped for something that’s easily avoidable. Finally, if you face any kind of criminal charges, contact our criminal defense attorneys at (414) 270-0202 for a free consultation.
Section 305.32 of the Wisconsin Statutes: side and rear window tint
Section 305.32 of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with window tint law as applied to side, vent, and read windows. There are a few ways tint is legal in Wisconsin:
- Firstly, the tint is installed by the manufacturer of the glazing as a part of the original manufacturing process.
- Secondly, the combination of tinting film and glazing allows at least 50% of visible light passage through the windows.
- Thirdly, a doctor or Christian Science practitioner prescribes tint that allows 35% of the visible light striking the windows to pass through.
- Finally, the law prohibits reflective tinting films in all circumstances.
Again, these laws do not apply to windshield tint (we’ll discuss that next), but instead side windows, back windows, and any kind of vent window in the vehicle. These standards are incredibly straightforward and easy to follow.
Importantly, the law focuses on the percentage of light that can pass through a tinted window. The higher the number, the more light that can pass through. 90% window tint allows most light through a window. 10% allows nearly none.
Section 305.34 of the Wisconsin Statutes: windshield tint
Section 305.34 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits tinting front windows in most circumstances:
- Firstly, windshield tint is legal when applied by the manufacturer of the glazing and installed as part of the original manufacturing process.
- Secondly, windshield tint is legal in locations which is both outside the critical area and above the horizontal line delineated by the mark “A.” If no such mark was affixed to the windshield by its manufacturer, no window tinting film may be attached to the windshield.
The line marked “A” is the AS-1 line. AS-1 lines are parallel to the top of your car’s windshield, or a line five inches underneath and parallel to the top of your windshield. This refers to the area above the rear-view mirror, also known as the visor strip for most automobiles. Sometimes you’ll see vehicle with decals or tint only near the top of the windshield – these vehicles are likely operating in a way that properly follows window tint law in Wisconsin.
The critical area means the portion of a motor vehicle windshield normally used by the driver for necessary observations to the front of the vehicle. This includes the areas normally swept by a factory installed windshield wiper system.
Full windshield tint in Wisconsin is illegal. It’s also a way for police to stop you any time you’re operating the vehicle.
How do the cops determine whether my window tint was improper?
Police frequently possess “tint meters” which determine how much light passes through a window. These simple devices have a notch that allows for glass to slide between a light-emitting side and a reading side. Nearly immediately, a percentage pops up and advises officers what your window tint is. Importantly, if you ever doubt what your tint level is, these devices cost around $175.00 on websites such as Amazon.com (September 2022).
Penalties for violating the law:
Usually the biggest concern individuals who are stopped for improper tint have is some other investigation started after the initial stop.
But operating a vehicle with illegal tint carries its own penalties. Section 110.075(7) of the Wisconsin Statutes describes those penalties:
(7) Any person producing, manufacturing or using an inspection sticker or causing the same to be done to subvert the provisions of this section shall forfeit not less than $100 nor more than $500. Any persons otherwise violating this section, s. 110.06, ch. 347 or rules issued pursuant thereto, unless otherwise provided by statute, shall forfeit not less than $10 nor more than $200.
Charged with a crime after being pulled over for improper tint?
We’ve represented many individuals stopped by police for operating a vehicle that has improper tint. Unfortunately, many of those situations didn’t simply result in a ticket, but instead initiated an investigation that led to serious criminal charges.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we offer free consultations to potential clients. During that free consultation, we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk about your case. Is there a potential pre-trial motion challenging the police stop of your vehicle? Is there some other way to win your case? We’ll discuss everything over an hour and figure out if representation from our firm is appropriate.
Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. at (414) 270-0202 to start exploring your options.