Top-Rated Fresno Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Call Us Today!
(559) 233-2900

Car Window Tinting: What’s allowed by California law? What fines can I face?

Vehicle Windshield - Calif. Vehicle Code 26708

According to a recent Fresno Bee story, police in the city of Clovis will be cracking down on tinted vehicle windows that “obstruct viewing and are a safety hazard” and will be issuing fix-it tickets for violations.

Restrictions on window tinting are governed by California Vehicle Code section 26708, but what is and what isn’t allowed can get confusing, especially when the law isn’t enforced uniformly.

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding the California Vehicle Code’s restrictions on window tinting.

What am I allowed to put on my car windows?

According to California Vehicle Code section 26708(a) VC:

  1. A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied upon the windshield or side or rear windows.
  2. A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied in or upon the vehicle that obstructs or reduces the driver’s clear view through the windshield or side windows.
  3. This subdivision applies to a person driving a motor vehicle with the driver’s clear vision through the windshield, or side or rear windows, obstructed by snow or ice.

What amount and type of tinting is allowed on my car windows?

Regardless of this restriction, the vehicle code allows for see-through tinted materials on windows if:

  1. The bottom edge of the material is at least 29 inches above the undepressed driver’s seat when measured from a point five inches in front of the bottom of the backrest with the driver’s seat in its rearmost and lowermost position with the vehicle on a level surface.
  2. The material is not red or amber in color.
  3. There is no opaque lettering on the material and any other lettering does not affect primary colors or distort vision through the windshield.
  4. The material does not reflect sunlight or headlight glare into
    the eyes of occupants of oncoming or following vehicles to any
    greater extent than the windshield without the material.

Clear material may be mounted on car windows if:

  1. The material has a minimum visible light transmittance of 88 percent.
  2. The window glazing with the material applied meets all requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 205 (49 C.F.R. 571.205), including the specified minimum light transmittance of 70 percent and the abrasion resistance of AS-14 glazing, as specified in that federal standard.
  3. The material is designed and manufactured to enhance the ability of the existing window glass to block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet A rays.
  4. The driver has in his or her possession, or within the vehicle, a certificate signed by the installing company certifying that the windows with the material installed meet the requirements of this subdivision and the certificate identifies the installing company and the material’s manufacturer by full name and street address, or, if the material was installed by the vehicle owner, a certificate signed by the material’s manufacturer certifying that the windows with the material installed according to manufacturer’s instructions meet the requirements of this subdivision and the certificate identifies the material’s manufacturer by full name and street address.
  5. If the material described in this subdivision tears or bubbles, or is otherwise worn to prohibit clear vision, it shall be removed or replaced.

It’s important to note that the guidelines of Calif. Vehicle Code section 26708(a) don’t apply to a rather extensive list of vehicle-related items listed in this section of the vehicle code including:

  1. Rearview mirrors;
  2. Adjustable nontransparent sunvisors that are mounted forward on the side windows and are not attached to the glass;
  3. Signs, stickers, or other materials displayed in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver; signs, stickers, or other materials that are displayed in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the rear window farthest removed from the driver, or signs, stickers, or other materials that are displayed in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest the driver.
  4. Side windows that are to the rear of the driver.
  5. Rear window wiper motor.
  6. Rear trunk lid handle or hinges.

What are the consequences of getting caught with tinted windows that don’t comply with the California Vehicle Code restrictions?

If you are caught with tinted windows that don’t comply with the California Vehicle Code restrictions, you could be issued what is known as a “fix-it ticket”. This type of ticket is a notice from the law enforcement officer of what is wrong with your vehicle, and a warning to make sure your vehicle comes into compliance with the vehicle code as soon as possible.

If the law enforcement officer is feeling less generous, you may be facing a low level violation of the law known as an “infraction”. The punishment for a vehicle code infraction is usually a fine, which is dictated by the California Uniform Bail Schedule. On top of the amount recommended by the California Uniform Bail Schedule, certain counties – including Fresno, Madera, Tulare, and Kings counties – are permitted by the state to exceed the Total Bail Amounts for traffic infractions.

According to Fresno County’s Uniform Bail Schedule, the fine for a violation of Calif. Vehicle Safety code 26708(a) is $190.

Sources: Calif. Vehicle Code section 26708 | Fresno County Uniform Bail Schedule