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Ask a Trooper: Can Drivers Have Tinted Windows in Michigan?

The following article was written by Michigan State Trooper Mike Sura, who answers questions about Michigan law in a weekly column.

Trooper Michael Sura, of the Michigan State Police – Brighton Post. Credit: Michigan State Police
Trooper Michael Sura, of the Michigan State Police – Brighton Post. Credit: Michigan State Police

We have received several questions about and I recently stopped a vehicle for window tint.   Let me share a story with you. 

I was on patrol when I observed a vehicle with window tint and I stopped the vehicle.  I spoke with the driver and advised him the reason I stopped his vehicle. 

The passenger of the vehicle quickly became agitated and said, “See, I told you, cops just don’t like window tint.  They got something against it.  They can’t see in the cars and that bugs them.” 

I smiled and in my most professional voice said “Yes, you are correct.  I Sgt. Sura of the Michigan State Police personally lobbied the State of Michigan to pass MCL 257.709, which in part states:

“A person shall not operate a motor vehicle with any of the following: a sign, poster, nontransparent material, window application, reflective film, or non-reflective film upon or in the front windshield, the side windows immediately adjacent to the driver or front passenger…, except that a tinted film may be used along the top edge of the windshield and the side windows or side-wings immediately adjacent to the driver or front passenger if the material does not extend more than 4 inches from the top of the windshield, or lower than the shade band, whichever is closer to the top of the windshield.  A rear window or side window to the rear of the driver composed of, covered by, or treated with a material that creates a total solar reflectance of 35% or more in the visible light range, including a silver or gold reflective film.  An object that obstructs the vision of the driver of the vehicle, except as authorized by law.  A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if driver visibility through the rear window is obstructed, unless the vehicle is equipped with 2 rearview mirrors, 1 on each side, adjusted so that the operator has a clear view of the highway behind the vehicle.”

I then said, “I lobbied for this law because I do not like window tint and neither do police everywhere.”  The man with a stunned look said “See, I told you so.”

Yes, I can repeat that verbatim.  Window tint in the front of the vehicle, on the driver side and passenger side windows can greatly diminish visibility.  At night and in poor weather, window tint can cause further visibility problems and can prevent people from seeing other vehicles and pedestrians.  

The law does allow for window tinting with a medical letter signed by a physician or optometrist indicating the window treatment is a medical necessity.  The special window treatment must not interfere with or obstruct the driver’s clear vision of the highway or intersecting highway.  The vehicle can then only be driven by the person with the medical condition.  Other people would not be able to drive that vehicle.

If you have a questions or comments please email them to askatrooper12@gmail.com, or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4337 Buno Road, Brighton, MI  48116. 

KatPatMac December 15, 2013 at 11:04 AM
I'm really glad to see this addressed here... I've often wondered why more cars are not stopped for this infraction. It is dangerous and offensive to me that I cannot see into the car that goes FLYING down our streets. If cities are so strapped, have a week of focused traffic stops and start issuing tickets for it! It is a growing problem and I'd like to see the law enforced! Thank you, Trooper Sura!!!
Jack Manning December 15, 2013 at 11:13 AM
What I see with tinted windows are usually punks thinking this makes them look cool. On top of that, a police officer is really putting he/she at risk approaching a car with tinted side-windows where the driver or occupant could be weilding a gun. You also don't know if that car pulls-up along side you, whether the occupant is aiming a gun at you.
KatPatMac December 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM
I completely agree, Mr. Manning... your points are very valid... not sure why I didn't think of that! The tinted windows really do put our officers at risk and conceal all sorts of potential risk, to us civilians, as well. I just cannot think of any good reason, other than a medical reason (and even then, if you have such bad cataracts or vision problems, perhaps driving is not such a great idea), why anyone NEEDS to be driving around in such dark tinted windows. The other day I saw a car in front of me on Woodward, where even the license plate had a dark tint over it, in addition to dark tinted windows. I'm sorry, but there's something really fishy about someone who doesn't want to be seen that badly, and who doesn't want anyone to be able to make out their license plate. I'm still just stymied when I see these cars, why they aren't pulled over and ticketed and given a week to fix it!
Harry Bissell December 16, 2013 at 01:11 PM
It is also very dangerous for drivers at large... Often in traffic situations such as four-way stops it can be dangerous to assume that a vehicle approaching is paying attention to the signs, or intends to yield the right of way. Seeing the drivers attentive face, or that same face stuffed into a text-message... can make a real difference in public safety. I'd love to see more enforcement of this ban !
l.c. December 17, 2013 at 06:11 PM
So why are so many on the roads & why are shops allowed to break the law? Lack of enforement personel?maybe its time for saftey inspectons before tag renewal.
Rlp Det January 09, 2014 at 02:54 PM
Perhaps law enforcement should concentrate on the major Part I, II, III crimes being committed in society. I get a kick out of those officers that profile vehicles and pull them over because of window tint. So no "kudos" to those who prey on vehicles with window tinting; even harassing drivers with a doctor's note (these cops never went to medical school). Why are these cops not focusing on real crime prevention? As Marc said above, it's about revenue, not about your safety. These officers want to enjoy certain rights they don't want you to. Your lobbying was a waste of time; No empirical data to support claim as Marc indicated above. I was assaulted a few weeks back, responding officers didn't even know how to begin the investigation or canvas a crime scene for evidence...nor did they take a report...How about lobbying for better training and crime prevention/investigation? Too difficult and no revenue producing; I know.
KatPatMac January 09, 2014 at 03:25 PM
Dear Rlp Det, I don't see any comments by anyone named Marc that you referred to twice. "These cops" ARE focusing on "real crime prevention". Did you actually read the Trooper's statements? And if you think an officer mishandled a procedure that involved you, you should contact the officer's commander, not shoot your misinformed mouth off in the local online news. Nothing will change by writing your opinion about a particular officer's conduct by griping about it here. I'm still trying to find what you are referring to about "no empirical data to support claim as Marc indicated above". Something goofy is going on, Rlp Det! Lay off the weed and get the tinting taken off your car windows!!!
Joe M. March 19, 2014 at 10:57 PM
Sorry for the late comment, but just came across this on an internet search. As a retired cop, certified police firearms instructor and custom auto enthusiast, I must take issue with the flawed logic behind this ill-advised law and the rationale behind it. The tired old "officer safety" argument for banning tinted windows on automobiles is just - for lack of a better word - bull. If officers follow correct traffic stop protocol that they learned when they were in the academy, tinted windows have ABSOLUTELY NO effect upon their safety. However, if an officer gets sloppy or lazy and starts conducting stops with a "just another routine stop" mindset, that officer endangers him or herself. When the people of Illinois had enough of these ridiculous and absurd "officer safety" arguments, they amended the vehicle code to allow tinted windows. Care to guess how many officers have been killed by "unseen criminals" due to tinted windows since that happened? ZERO. ZIP. NONE. If officers approach every traffic stop as they were taught as rookies, tinted windows are not part of the equation. Time to rethink this superstitious old law.

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