New York State Window Tint Laws

Applying tinting foil onto a car window
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When approaching a vehicle at a routine traffic stop, law enforcement officers risk danger if they can’t see inside the vehicle due to its window tint. While all recently manufactured vehicles have some tint on their safety glass to block out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, aftermarket window tint is often too dark.

Every state has laws regarding window tint, and New York state is no exception. It has a statute explaining the permissible window tint allowed for a passenger vehicle’s front, rear and side windows. The state also allows medical exemptions according to specific aliments listed by New York Public Health Law Section 69-7.1.

What Is Window Tinting?

Window tinting prevents light from passing through a vehicle’s safety glass. On most new passenger vehicles, the windows have been coated or treated with some tint to keep out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This is done during manufacturing and is compliant with federal and state laws.

“Aftermarket” window tinting is done when the vehicle has already been manufactured and sold. A customizing company or even the vehicle's owner can tint its windows by placing a colored film over them. These aftermarket modifications most commonly violate a state’s window tint laws, including New York's.

New York Window Tint Laws

According to New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 (12-a), a vehicle’s windshield (front window) or side windows cannot block more than 30 percent of the light coming into a car. This means at least 70 percent of light must come through the vehicle’s windows.

This law also applies to a vehicle’s rear windows, unless the vehicle has external rear-view mirrors on both sides that provide the driver with a clear, full view behind them.

Car windows are also subject to the 70 percent rule if the vehicle is a convertible, coupe, hardtop, hatchback, station wagon or sedan. Vehicles labeled “Passenger Car” on the Federal ID label located on a car's front left door panel must follow these guidelines. It is not only illegal to operate a car with a tint that is not compliant with the law, it is illegal to install, sell or offer such a vehicle for sale.

Exemptions for Some Medical Conditions

In 2017, the New York State Health Department updated its list of medical conditions that may allow vehicle owners to keep their aftermarket window tint, even if it is otherwise considered illegal in the Empire State.

Individuals may request an exemption from the state’s window tint laws using the Application for Tinted Window Exemption form (MV-80W). Exemptions apply to certain medical conditions are:

  • Albinism.
  • Chronic actinic dermatitis/actinic reticuloid.
  • Dermatomyositis.
  • Lupus erythematosus.
  • Photophobia as the result of an ophthalmic or neurological disorder.
  • Porphyria.
  • Severe drug photosensitivity, if the course of treatment results in photosensitivity of a prolonged duration.
  • Xeroderma (pigmentosa) pigmentosum.
  • Other conditions or disorders that cause severe photosensitivity in which a person must be shielded from the direct rays of the sun.

Getting a Ticket for Illegal Window Tinting

Since 2012, New York state law enforcement officers have issued over 710,000 tickets for window tint violations. A ticket for this violation carries up to a $150 penalty. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles advises vehicle owners to complete their vehicle inspection prior to the expiration date of their sticker.

Cars with illegal window tints will fail the annual inspection. Vehicle owners who do not pass an inspection due to their vehicle’s window tint have until the expiration date of their inspection sticker to fix the problem. If they do not, they will be charged the monetary penalty.

Presenting Medical Evidence to Avoid a Ticket

When law enforcement stops a vehicle for an illegal window tint violation, the officer will need to know if the driver or a passenger qualifies for a medical exemption to avoid a ticket. These individuals must present the officer with information reflecting this. Documentation can be:

  • Prescription or detailed letter from a medical professional identifying the condition.
  • Document stating the amount of light exposure that satisfies the medical needs of driver or passenger.
  • Document containing a permit duration or a prescription expiration date.
  • Document identifying the vehicles to which the individual’s window tint exemption applies.

Vehicles Other Than Passenger Cars

In the state of New York, the type of vehicle operated determines the kind of aftermarket window tint a vehicle operator can legally install. Those that have to meet the 70 percent standard fall under the “Passenger Car” category.

If the vehicle’s label states that it is a multipurpose vehicle (MPV) – a “motor vehicle with motive power, except a low-speed vehicle or trailer, designed to carry 10 persons or less which is constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – it is exempt from the window-tint percentages that passenger vehicles must abide by. MPV vehicles include trucks and buses.

Measure the Window Tint on a Vehicle

A vehicle owner can measure the visible light transmission (VLT) to see how much light enters through their vehicle’s tinted glass or window film. They do this by measuring it with a hand-held device called a VLT or tint meter.

These tools cost between $99 to $150 depending on their features. There are also apps available for testing window tint, such as VLT Tint Meter, but their accuracy is not known.

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