Traffic Stop for Dark Window Tint

Traffic Stop for Dark Window Tint

Let’s say you just bought a used car and the police do a traffic stop for dark window tint. You never had the windows tinted, the car came like that. Or let’s say you recently had the windows tinted by a reputable tint dealer. Then, in the middle of the day, you’re driving and get pulled over for what you think is no reason. Somehow, (either because you give consent or the officer just does it), they search your car and find illegal things inside. Can the police pull you over if they “think” your windows are too dark? According to the 5th DCA and many other appellate courts – yes. For example, in the case of State v. Wimberly, Wimberly was the passenger in a vehicle that the police stopped for suspicion that the tint was too dark. After the stop, the officer found an outstanding warrant for Wimberly and the odor of marijuana coming from the car. A subsequent search revealed marijuana in his pocket and in the vehicle so he was arrested. At at later hearing, a witness for Wimberly proved that the tint was legal and the court suppressed the evidence. The 5th DCA disagreed with that decision and found that the officer's mistake of fact was acceptable because he reasonably believed that the tint was too dark. As we all know, police must have “probable cause” or "reasonable suspicion" to believe a traffic violation has occurred before they can stop your car. That means that you have violated some traffic law and they can give you a ticket. In the case of window tint, the officer doesn’t know for sure that you’ve violated the law – because he needs to use a tint meter to know for sure. But, he or she can stop you if he reasonably believes the window tint is too dark, and later, after you’re stopped, can check it with a tint meter. It doesn't matter if the result comes back legal. To me this seems like an arbitrary and illegal decision based on a “hunch” of the officer. But the courts have said it’s not. What's more, the the Florida Statute on window tint, sec. 316.2953 states that the window cannot be "nontransparent" but then states that the tint is authorized if:

"when applied to and tested on the glass of such windows on the specific motor vehicle, the material has a total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than 25 percent as measured on the nonfilm side and a light transmittance of at least 28 percent in the visible light range."

That sounds like alot of leeway to "guesstimate" the tint level, even if the law told you, Joe citizen, what was specifically required so you don't get pulled over! In my 15 plus years of practicing law, I have never seen a traffic stop for dark window tint done on a normal vanilla family car. I would argue that nearly all stops for window tint by the police are pretextual stops – meaning the officer is looking for a reason to pull the car over because the car, or the driver, or the neighborhood, looks “fishy”. Unfortunately, the officer's subjective intention is not considered by the courts, so long as he articulates a reason for stopping your car based on a civil traffic violation. “Fishy” may not equal probable cause, but it may be enough in these cases. If you’ve been stopped for a window tint violation – call our experienced Pasco County criminal defense attorneys today.

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