Penalty for Tinted Windows
It is the same species of meter used by the professional who tinted your vehicle’s windows that pleasing, privatizing, cooling (and cool) color in the first place. And if that tint was applied even before you and your car became acquainted? Sorry, motorist; it’s still your bad. Especially in New York State, where the degree of legal, allowable tint was halved in 1992, and particularly on Long Island, where police departments as cozy as Asharoken’s or as no-nonsense as Suffolk County’s Second Precinct, in the Town of Huntington, are getting visibly tough on tint.
Who knew? And more important, why?
“Because we’ve seen an increase not only in the volume of tint but in the intensity, ” said Asharoken’s avuncular, and tint-averse, top police officer, Ray Mahdesian. “We don’t have quotas, and we don’t use tint to go fishing for other violations, but yes, there are a lot of summonses being written around here for window tinting.” For the record, his department issued 70 tint-related summonses in 2007, up from 35 in 2006.
Why target tint? “It’s a safety violation.” Whose safety? “Yours and the officer’s.” Mr. Mahdesian says eye contact, whether between motorists or between a police officer and occupants of a suspicious vehicle, is paramount.
“If we can’t see you, we don’t know if you have a gun in there or if, God forbid, something worse is going on, like a kidnapping, ” he added.
As Lt. Michael O’Callaghan of the Second Precinct noted in a letter dated Sept. 10, 2007, and distributed to area car dealerships, the bottom line is that overly tinted windows are illegal and out of compliance, period, and his department has adopted a zero-tolerance attitude toward them.
Might be a wise time to invest in tint meter futures. The device clamps onto one’s half-open car window with hand-in-glove efficiency, and if the instant digital readout indicates that less than 70 percent of natural light is entering the vehicle, bam: those windows are illegal in New York State. (That’s not the case in Sun Belt states like Florida, where 35 percent is considered just fine.)
But here on the Island, if offending windows are not detinted, pronto, at your or your car dealer’s expense, or if you have no medical waiver explaining that tint is needed for health reasons, you, but not your dealer or the tint man, can receive a maximum fine of $150 and up to 30 days in jail. A true tint deterrent.
Jeff Tabachnick, owner of Top Edge Inc., a St. James firm that claims to do the largest volume of tinting, especially legal tinting, on Long Island, says that “law enforcement complaints about tint seem to have increased by 1, 000 percent. In the last six months, there has definitely been a step-up in enforcement. It’s become part of those little spot inspections on off-ramps and whatnot.”
Predictably, Mr. Tabachnick, whose customers now sign a waiver exempting him from responsibility (or their ire) if their windows draw police scrutiny, is not a fan of the crackdown. He says the 70 percent tint is virtually indistinguishable from a clear piece of glass. No more shade for car interiors in the summer (“Tint can shield 45 percent of the sun’s heat!”), no more blocking of ultraviolet rays, and definitely no cosmetic cachet.
“I personally think that a 50 percent allowable tint would be a reasonable law to put on the books, ” he said. “I could do business, the police would be safe, and customers would be happy.” This detinted one sure would.