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Window Tinting May Get You Pulled Over in Tennessee

March 31, 2011

Window Tinting May Get You Pulled Over in Tennessee

Much like an expired license plate or a broken taillight, tinted windows can be used by police officers in Tennessee to make a vehicle stop. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-107 prohibits driving a car that has windows that have been altered with a material that has a visible light transmittance of less than 35% or reduces visible light transmittance in the windshield below 70%. The law also requires installers of window tints to affix a compliance sticker and provide a signed receipt to the owner.
The window requirements only apply to vehicles registered in Tennessee; cars registered in other states must meet the requirements of the state of registration, which may be greater or less than Tennessee’s.
Unfortunately for drivers, a police officer may generally be able to stop you if they have a reasonable belief that your windows are too dark, even if they are actually compliant. Much like the implied consent law for DUIs, it is a Class C misdemeanor to refuse to let the officer do a field comparison test of the window. Moreover, the owner has the burden of proof that the windows are legal.
If you have been stopped for a tinted window violation and subsequently arrested for a more serious offence, challenging the initial stop may be the only way to have the other evidence suppressed. For example, one federal court found that a “brief observation” of windows by a police officer was insufficient to establish probable cause to stop a vehicle and threw out the rest of the case. United States v. Page, 154 F.Supp.2d 1316, 1320 (M.D. Tenn. 2001).
Although there may not be much that drivers with tinted windows can do to avoid being stopped, having documentation of compliance handy may speed the process along and reduce the chances for the police to find additional reasons to question you. If your windows were not tinted in Tennessee or you do not have the compliance sticker and receipt, some window tinting companies will evaluate the amount of tint on your car and provide documentation of their findings.
If you are facing criminal charges stemming from a tinted window violation, you should contact a criminal attorney to assist you. Our office has experience handling these types of cases in Nashville, TN. You may contact Vince Wyatt, David Raybin, or Ben Raybin or call us directly at (615) 256-6666.