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Vehicle Window Tinting’s Illegal, but Rarely Enforced

Vehicle Window Tinting’s Illegal

By Karen Knight

COURT HOUSE – It’s against the law, in New Jersey, to tint windows on vehicles, unless one has a medical exemption.  
Although the law has been enacted since Feb. 1, 2001, it’s not one regularly enforced by local police. 
Cape May Police Chief Anthony Marino Jr. said, over his 29-year career, he’s “sure” he’s stopped people for tinted windows, particularly when the law first came out. The department’s records management system doesn’t differentiate traffic stops, so he couldn’t provide specific numbers of tickets issued against the statute. 
Middle Township Police Chief Christopher Leusner said nine violations were issued by his department, in 2019, and four, in 2018. 
“We issue about 4,000 tickets a year,” Leusner said, “so, it’s up to the officer’s discretion, but we are focused more on things like speeding or distracted driving.” 
“In the beginning, enforcement is a priority to educate people,” Marino added. “It is a reason for probable cause (for a traffic stop).” 
Statute Outlines What’s Allowed
State law prohibits add-on tinting on windshields and front side windows of motor vehicles, with certain exceptions, according to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Press Secretary William Connolly. The law also states where the tinting can be placed, identifies medical conditions for which exemptions can be given, and rules for those wishing to apply. 
“As per R.S. 39: 3-75.1, individuals who have a medical condition involving ophthalmic or dermatological photosensitivity may apply to the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to have supplemental transparent sun-screening materials or products applied to the windshield and front windows of their motor vehicles to protect them from the sun,” he said. Medical exemptions are valid for 48 months. 
A request to the Motor Vehicle Commission for the number of Cape May County residents requesting and receiving medical exemptions over the past five years could not be filled, because the information is not maintained by the county; however, in 2019, 1,017 requests were received for medical exemption statewide, 784, or 77% were approved, and 233, or 23%, were rejected, according to statistics provided by the Motor Vehicle Commission. 
The year 2016 saw the most requests over the past five years: 3,710 requests received, 2,888, or 78%, approved, and 822, or 22%, rejected. 
The law further states that the tinting can’t reduce the visible light below a certain percent, depending on its location, according to Connolly. 
On the windshield, tinting shall not “reduce the transmittance of normally incident visible light below 70%.” On the front side windows, tinting shall not “reduce the transmittance of normally incident visible light below 60%.” 
Therein lies the problem with enforcement, according to Marino. “We don’t have a scale or something to measure the level of tinting,” he explained. 
Most Cases Are in Essex County
According to statistics provided by the state Administrative Office of the Courts, Essex County leads in the enforcement of the statute, with nearly 500 added cases from 2015 through October 2019. 
Of the 497 cases added, 354 were dismissed, but could have been reduced by a plea bargain, according to the communications manager at the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
No Registered Tinting Shops in County
Tinting shops must be registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission. There are six listed on the Motor Vehicle Commission’s website that are licensed to tint windows. There are none in Cape May County, but that doesn’t prevent shops from tinting windows, as noted by one Court House business owner.  
“We can tint windows to your discretion, but I try to push people away from doing a full windshield unless it’s for melanoma or a skin cancer type of thing,” said Todd Rudden, owner of a window-tinting business in Court House. “I generally don’t go dark, because it looks silly at that point.”
Tinting Benefits Noted
Rudden said he’s seen people with skin cancer, especially those who drive for a living and have skin cancer on the left side of their face, come to his business to have their windows tinted.  
“A lot of younger people see people with skin cancer and want to be protected, so they want their windows tinted,” he explained. “I’ve seen parents of a child who couldn’t leave the house without protection want to tint their windows, and seen where the tint film kept a windshield from shattering in an accident. There are a lot of benefits. 
“There are officers and prison guards that we tint windows for because they don’t want to be seen leaving prisons,” Rudden said, “or they want to protect a victim. 
“I try to stay neutral and help where I can,” he added. “People who have never had their windows tinted understand the benefits after they have it done.” 
Rudden said his shop is not registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission because people were “forging doctor’s notes,” and he didn’t want to “get involved with that.” He’s been in the business for over 20 years and works with clients to stay within the limits of the law. 
“Most of the kids that are getting really dark tints are in their 20s. I turn them down. I won’t put something darker than 35% because, at that point, it’s almost too dark,” he said.  
Cape May Police Chief Marino added, “Sometimes, window tinting done by the auto factory can be in compliance, but also darker,” because of the materials used. 
Tinting Causes Concern for Officers
“Cars with tinted windows are a cause for concern for the safety of the police officer because they can’t see in, they can’t see danger,” Marino said. “Whomever is in the car knows if there is ill-intent and can pre-plan, but the officer can’t plan for him or herself. 
“Tinted windows also are dangerous at night because not only can’t you see in, but the driver can’t see out very well,” he added. 
Middle Township Police Chief Leusner said officers have to rely on their training when they stop a car with tinted windows. “I always tell people if they get stopped at night, they need to turn their inside light on, roll down the window and put their hands on the steering wheel,” he said. 
If the driver is not following instructions or is argumentative, the officer’s awareness is heightened, he added. “They will look to see if the driver is following instructions. If not, the officer will rely on their training.”
To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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