Cars with tinted windows are not an uncommon sight in New York City. Whether they are legal, however, depends on how darkly they are tinted. According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, tinted windshields and side windows are legal as long as they allow at least 70 percent of the light from outside to pass through. If the vehicle has rear view mirrors on both sides that allow the driver a full and clear view behind them, then rear windows may be tinted.
If a police officer suspects that a vehicle’s windows are tinted beyond the legal specifications, he or she may pull the driver over and use a tint meter to determine if the windows are in compliance. Being caught with tinted windows that exceed the legal limit is a minor violation. If the driver is in violation of additional laws, however, they may come to light during the traffic stop for tinted windows.
If a police officer suspects that a vehicle’s windows are tinted beyond the legal specifications, he or she may pull the driver over and use a tint meter to determine if the windows are in compliance
The officer may suspect that the driver has been drinking and administer a field sobriety test which results in drunk driving charges. The officer may notice an odor and have cause to search the vehicle for drugs. In such a case, the driver would then be facing far more serious charges than a fine for tinted windows.
For example, the New York Post wrote about a traffic stop in Brooklyn where the driver was pulled over for having darkly tinted windows. The driver was unable to produce the proper paperwork and was asked to step out of the vehicle. One of the officers spotted a knife, and a further search of the car yielded additional weapons and ammunition including a machine gun. So in addition to the window tint violation, the driver ended up facing much more serious weapons charges that carry significantly harsher penalties.