Window Tint Percentage California Legal

(A poignant story from one of our Car Body Repair Clients.)

What Kinds of Safety Issues are Associated
with Tinting Your Car Windows in California?

California Car Window Tint Law – Let’s look at things from different perspectives, angles or attitudes if you will and consider the bigger picture regarding how with car window tinting, there is a reason less can mean more.

A young lady came in the shop the other day very upset that she had gotten a ticket because here front driver and passenger side windows were tinted at about 50% LVT. She said her (Now) “X-Boy friend” had told her it was legal when he did it and what right did California have to make her remove the tint from her windows. In an effort to try and help her calm down I ask here to think about a few things from a little different point of view.

California Window Tint Law

Why was it Enacted back in 1999? Californians were tinting the windows in their vehicles long before 1999.

If we just think about this issue from a different perspective than the driver, maybe we can make some sense of why so many people (Especially those ticketed) in southern California can get STEAMING mad at the mention of California’s Legal Window Tint Law . . . and why maybe they shouldn’t.

What matters the most:

How Well You Can See Looking Out?
window tint percentage
Or How Well Someone Else Can See Looking In?

Percentage window tint lake elsinore ca
Southern California Driver’s Perspective

When you look at it from the driver’s perspective in southern California, that blistering hot summer sun is shinning straight through their car windows and cooking them, a person has to wonder; “Who in their right mind would not want to block out as much of this hot sun as possible”? RIGHT?

After All, there is the Glare factor: Sunlight reflecting off the (Maybe tinted) window of another car through your un-tinted windows and causing near temporary blindness just as a child chases a ball out into the street right in front of you. So tinted windows are safer in that scenario; right? And as long as they are not tinted too dark (Limo Dark), most people think they can see well enough to drive safely with tinted windows even at night.

The Cooling Factor: The cooler you can keep the inside of your vehicle while it’s not being driven, the less work that gas guzzling air conditioning compressor will have to do to cool it back down to less than heat stroke temperatures.

The Coolness Factor: More appealing to the younger set but let’s face it – tinted windows do look cool. Maybe it is the mystery it invokes from not being able to be seen by others looking in at you. But  it is that very mystery that sends us to consider another perspective entirely.


California Highway Patrol and Police Department Perspective

Let’s consider a worst possible scenario – It’s night time and dark. An officer sees a car  with a tail light out and pulls the driver over having no idea the guy had just robbed a liquor store. The officer approaches the car and the driver’s side front window is tinted dark enough that the officer cannot see in the vehicle.

Daylight Looking In

Dusk Looking In

Without the officer being able to see in the vehicle, she/he does not see the driver pull a gun from under the seat. The officer taps on the window, the driver opens the window, and the driver shoots the officer in the head at near point blank range. Do you think maybe that officer should have had the right to be able to see into that car without having to have the window rolled down?

Now think about how nervous it can make an officer to come up to a car with tinted windows at night. I don’t know about you, but if someone is approaching me with a loaded weapon at their side, i would like very much for them to be as calm as possible.

It only took that happening 2 times in 1998 for the California tint law to be enacted in 1999. that was two times too many.

Regardless of what you think of our local police officers, sheriffs and highway patrol – we need them to protect the public. and we need to be thankful our state can still afford to keep on the few we have left.

So, can you get your front side windows tinted so they allow less than 70% of the light in? Yep you sure can. but you can get a ticket for it. sure it’s just a fixit ticket and you get the tinting removed, pay your little fine and so what? you got away with whatever amount of time you did without getting busted and you felt cooler and your car definitely looked cooler.

I do think you might want to hope when you get your illegal window tint ticket, it is at least during the day and your windows are not tinted so dark the officer can’t see inside. but if they are you might say a little prayer that the officer is nice and calm and isn’t dealing personally with anything that will cause him or her to be the least bit on edge. oh and by the way, keep your hands where they can be seen.

California Tint Law Enacted: 1999


Darkness of tint is measured by Visible Light
Transmission percentage (VLT%). In California, this percentage refers to percentage of visible light allowed in through the combination of film
and the window.

Windshield Non-reflective tint is allowed on the top 4 inches of the windshield.
Front Side Windows Must allow more than 70% of light in.
Back Side Windows Any Percentage of Darkness can be Used
Rear Window Any Percentage of darkness can be used as long as side rear view mirrors provide an unobstructed rear view.


Similar to sun-glass lenses, some tinting film contain metallic elements that help in reflecting incoming light and reducing the glare and heat generated by visible light.

  • Front Side Windows – Must not be more reflective than a standard window.
  • Back Side Windows – Must not be more reflective than a standard window.


  • Restricted Colors – The tint color(s) of RED AMBER BLUE are not legal by state law.
  • Side Mirrors – Dual side mirrors are required if back window is tinted.
  • Certificate Requirements – Manufacturers of film do NOT need to certify the film they sell in the state.
  • Sticker Requirements – No sticker to identify legal tinting is required.
  • Medical Exemption – State law does NOT allow medical exemptions that would allow you use special tint.

So let’s look at things from different perspectives, angles or attitudes if you will and consider the bigger picture regarding how with car window tinting, there is a reason less can mean more.
Let’s be safe out there.

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