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There is a list of North American tint laws over at International Window Film Association (IWFA) (also html).

It is understandable why states might be interested in regulating the Visible Light Transmission of the tinting on the front windows -- to make sure the driver could be identified in case of accidents / hit-and-runs / other issues, by both the general public and the police. This is, apparently, why some states, like California, dictate that VLT of the front side windows must not be below 70%, whereas all other windows -- back side and the rear one -- could be as tinted as one pleases, e.g., even limo-style 5% or below is acceptable.

However, other states seem to regulate all windows -- front side, back side, and the rear one -- and many mandate at least 35% VLT on all of the windows, whereas some north-east states like New York even go as high as 70% VLT on all windows, which, frankly, doesn't seem reasonable at all. This is especially interesting in light of some vehicles not having any back side windows, nor the rear window.

What legitimate interests do the states have in regulating back-side and rear windows? Are those laws enforceable? Especially, as potentially a special case of the Window Tinting rules and laws in visiting jurisdictions question, would someone with a 70%/5%/5% tint and California or Texas licence plates, where such tinting is legal, can be legally forced to pay fine and/or remove the 95% tint from the back-side and rear windows in a state where it's supposedly not legal? What if it's a local vehicle?

  • I'm no expert on how "legitimate interest" is assessed. However, one thing that comes to mind is that tinted windows may inhibit the ability of police offers to check for violations of things like seatbelt laws. – BrenBarn Jun 16 '15 at 6:31
  • @BrenBarn, seatbelt-law violation, especially in the back-side (which, ironically, are not actually required in NY, notwithstanding 70% VLT requirement on the back-side windows), doesn't seem to warrant the infliction on the right of motorists to the privacy of their carriage. Also, I've just re-looked at the rules, and in addition to California and Texas, the most populous US states, which only mandate front side windows VLT, almost all provinces in Canada do not regulate back-side and the rear window tint. And it's probably for a reason, likely because it's not enforceable. – cnst Jun 16 '15 at 15:14
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    @cnst You are making a baseless assumption that it's unenforceable. Texas and California and Canada are irrelevant to NY law, because NY is a different state that can have its own laws. – cpast Jun 16 '15 at 16:18
  • @cpast, there's lots of laws on the books that's unenforceable; just because NY has its own law, doesn't mean that it's enforceable or can be affirmed by higher courts – cnst Jun 16 '15 at 17:41
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    @cnst Okay, I'll ask again: On what grounds do you think this specific law is unenforcable? Laws in Canada, Texas, and California don't affect whether it's enforcable. Unless it involves a suspect categorization or involves fundamental rights, the relevant standard is that it's rationally related to a legitimate state interest. It doesn't need to be a good way of achieving the interest, nor the least restrictive; it just needs to be rationally related (i.e. not arbitrary). – cpast Jun 16 '15 at 17:45
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The legitimate interests are officer safety - seeing into the car - and general driver safety - it's more difficult for a driver to see out of the car especially at night.

Yes, taking a car into a state where your tint is illegal can get you a ticket in the new state. In some (most?) states the statute applies to vehicles driven in the state; this applies to all vehicles. Anecdotally most cops won't write a ticket for an out of state car and driver but they could.

  • You are not addressing the back-side and rear window issue. I've re-looked at the rules, and in addition to California and Texas, the most populous US states, which only mandate front side windows VLT, almost all provinces in Canada do not regulate back-side and the rear window. It must be for a reason, likely because it's not enforceable. – cnst Jun 16 '15 at 14:50
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    @cnst How on earth did you come to the conclusion that unenforcability was the likely reason? Keep in mind something else about TX and CA: they're sunny, much more so than NY. And what Canada does is irrelevant to US courts. – cpast Jun 16 '15 at 15:13
  • @cpast, notwithstanding how sunny California is, it essentially still prohibits "tinting" of the front-side windows, since they must have an overall VLT of at least 70% -- it seems like few manufacturers even make film that light (and you have to consider that the window by itself is likely already noticeably below 100% to start with) – cnst Jun 16 '15 at 17:48
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    @cnst Incidentally, rear and rear-side window tint levels are certainly related to officer safety. Cops approach vehicles from behind, and many vehicles have multiple rows of seats. Therefore, a rational legislature could decide it makes sense to restrict tint on those windows. Texas and California might have decided differently, but a court doesn't care if a law is the best way to address the legitimate state interest or if other states addressed it the same way; it just has to be a rational way to do it. – cpast Jun 16 '15 at 18:19

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