New York State Vows to Crack Down on Illegal Tints and License Plate Covers this Holiday Season
Excessive Tints and License Plate Covers are Illegal
Tinted windows are loved by many drivers - They reduce glare, provide privacy and, let’s face it, make your car look sleek. License plate covers and frames also provide a customized and clean look to your vehicle sleek. However, as a traffic ticket attorney on Long Island who has seen an alarming increase in the amount of tint tickets and obscured license plate tickets over the past several months, I advise all of my clients that the best thing to do is to remove the tints and plate covers and frames to avoid being hit with hundreds of dollars in traffic ticket fines.
Police Departments across New York State to Issue more Tint Tickets and Obscured License Plate Tickets
Locally, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder has initiated “Operation Safety” and has announced that there will be checkpoints across Nassau County during this holiday season. Motorists with tinted windows, license plate covers that evade plate readers and red-light cameras and fake plates are being targeted in this holiday crackdown.
The crackdown is so significant that State Sen. Andrew Gounardes has gone so far as to introduce a bill that will allow New York City and other state municipalities to create an online program in which a bystander can report spotting a license plate they believe to be obscured. The bill states that the city will follow up on complaints, and if tickets are given out, tipsters will get 25% of the fine.
Why are Excessive Tints Illegal?
- Compromised Safety for Law Enforcement
A major reason why window tint regulations exist is to protect police officers from potentially dangerous situations. Vehicle stops are among the most dangerous situations that police officers face on a regular basis, and excessively-tinted windows only amplify that danger by eliminating an officer’s ability to make eye contact with individuals inside a vehicle and see what they are doing while approaching a stopped vehicle.
- Scope of Vision
Exceptionally dark or thick tints have been shown to hinder a driver's scope of vision– especially on snowy, cloudy, or rainy days. Any low light environment could pose a potential issue with visibility if your tint is too dark.
- Driver Communication
Tinted windows can also prevent a driver from communicating their intentions to other drivers and pedestrians, and vice versa, making driving inherently less safe. Whether you realize it or not, you and your fellow drivers engage in body language communication to determine the other driver's next move. We are constantly making assessments about things such as the right of way at stop signs, parking lots, while merging and any other number of similar situations. Dark window tints prevent eye contact, which limits our ability to communicate. These miscommunications can lead to dangerous accidents and wrecks and worse—fatalities.
In most passenger vehicles, front windshields, front side windows, and rear side windows must allow at least 70% visible light transmission for 1992 and newer vehicles. Rear windows require no light transmission if you have dual side mirrors. These regulations apply to both factory-tinted vehicles and aftermarket tints.
If you are unsure of your level of tint, you can get it checked at any inspection station. There’s even a free VLT Tint Meter app for your smartphone though we can’t vouch for its accuracy.
Note that there are some medical conditions that may qualify for an exemption from the limits on light transmittance. These conditions are listed on the New York DMV website. If you have one of the medical conditions below that require you to have tinted vehicle windows, you can apply for a Tinted Window Exemption (MV-80W).
Tint Ticket Fines
Fines vary due to the severity of the offense, but start at $238 including the surcharges and police often issue one ticket for each window failing to meet regulations. As you can see, these fines can quickly add up.
Obscured License Plate Tickets
Why are License Plate Covers and Non-Compliant License Plate Frames Illegal?
License plate covers and improper frames obscure license plates from red light cameras, speeding cameras and law enforcement. Law enforcement have dubbed these vehicles “ghost cars.” They are considered a threat to public safety, because enforcement cameras cannot hold them accountable when they speed or run red lights and police officers cannot run their plate from their vehicle to identify the driver.
License Plate Regulations
The rules for license plates are pretty straight forward. "Valid plates must be properly displayed, kept clean in a condition that is readable, not be covered by glass or any plastic material." With respect to a license plate frame (even one placed by a dealer), it must allow all wording on the plate to be seen including the words "New York" and "Empire State" or you are at risk of being ticketed.
Obscured License Plate Fines
Fines vary but start at approximately $288 including the surcharges.
How to get a Tint Ticket or Obscured License Plate Ticket Dismissed
Generally, a tint ticket or obscured license plate ticket can be dismissed by submitting proof that you fixed your issue immediately.