Maryland Law on a Traffic Stop for Tinted Windows

Maryland police officers frequently use tinted windows as a justification to pull over a vehicle. In and of itself that may be fine, but as we all know these stops are almost always pretextual and the officers are really looking for contraband in the vehicle or on the driver such as drugs, guns, stolen property, etc. If someone is charged with possession of drugs and it is based on a traffic stop for tinted windows, is that grounds for fighting and beating the case?

Maryland law on window tinting
The law in Maryland on window tinting, as codified in Transportation Article section 22-406, states that a driver may not operate a vehicle if the tints do not allow more than 35% light transmittance through the window. Additionally there must be a label affixed to the tints that states the percentage of light transmittance. If an officer observes someone driving with these impermissible tints, the officer may stop the vehicle and issue a citation and repair order.

How does the officer know before stopping the vehicle whether the tints are legal or not?
This is the key question that determines whether this stop is going to be upheld as a legal one or an illegal stop under the Fourth Amendment. The Maryland courts have determined that an officer cannot just make a stop like this because they think the tints are too dark. Instead, the officer must be able to articulate the difference between tints that are too dark and tints that are legal. Or the officer must recognize that there was no label affixed to the tints before pulling over the vehicle.

A risky proposition

Just because the officer pulled someone over for tints does not mean the case against them is going to dismissed, but it also doesn’t mean the case cannot be successfully fought and won. It can be somewhat of a risk taking these cases to trial because whether you prevail or not is usually dependent on what the officer says at trial about distinguishing the tints. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be your best weapon to fight a case like this, because that lawyer will know exactly how to cross examine a police officer in a way which tilts the case in your favor. Without that it may be easy for the court to just accept that the officer knew the window had dark tints and that served as justification for the traffic stop.

If you were pulled over for having tinted windows and that resulted in a criminal or traffic charge, consult with the Law Offices of Christopher Peretti at 301-875-3472. This office routinely handles cases of this nature and can advise you on the best approach given your specific case facts and situation.

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