Is Window Tint Probable Cause to Be Pulled Over in New Jersey?

In order for the police to pull you over in New Jersey, they usually must have a reasonable and articulate suspicion that you are breaking the law. Some traffic stops like Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) checkpoints operate under different rules, but in most situations police officers cannot stop people without reasonable suspicion.

Illegal window tint does constitute reasonable suspicion for being pulled over. In New Jersey, zero tint is allowed on the windshield and front side windows of your car unless you have a medical exemption. However, you are free to apply as much tint as you want to your vehicle’s backside or rear windows.

If you suspect that you were pulled over without a valid reason, get help from our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 for a free assessment of your case.

Can a Police Officer Pull You Over for Improper Window Tint in New Jersey?

For a police officer to pull you over, they need “reasonable suspicion” rather than “probable cause.” Probable cause is the standard that must be met for arrest rather than a traffic stop.  Nonetheless, improper window tint will almost always constitute grounds for being pulled over in New Jersey, and you should contact our South Jersey criminal defense attorneys for help if you are pulled over.

As established in the 2018 NJ Superior Court decision in State v. Cohen, an officer can pull you over for window tint even if it turns out that your tint was lawful or that you had a medical exemption. In Cohen, the police officer initiated a traffic stop because they believed the defendant’s vehicle was equipped with improperly tinted windows. Upon being pulled over, the defendant claimed the tint was lawful. However, the officer learned from dispatch that the driver had a suspended license. Further investigation uncovered the license suspension was from multiple DWIs. As a result of the traffic stop, the officer issued a summons for driving with a suspended license but declined to give the defendant a ticket for illegal window tint because they were cooperative.

The defendant subsequently challenged the traffic stop, arguing their tint was legal and the police officer lacked grounds to pull them over. At trial, the judge determined that the traffic stop at issue was valid because the officer had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to believe that the window tinting violated New Jersey law, even when it ultimately did not. On appeal, this decision was affirmed.

This case helps describe what is necessary for the police to perform a traffic stop: if an officer observes tint that they think could be illegal, then they can pull you over. Taken further, even if the violation they thought they saw turns out to be untrue, their traffic stop may still be considered lawful. Accordingly, having tint on your windows can almost always be considered grounds for a police officer to pull you over; they only have to believe that your tint is illegal.

Window Tint Regulations in New Jersey

There are many benefits of window tinting. For instance, tinted windows can help cool your vehicle’s interior, protect your skin and eyes from ultraviolet radiation, and prevent your car’s interior from fading or cracking. Additionally, tinted windows offer a degree of privacy that many drivers appreciate.

In New Jersey, there may not be any window tint whatsoever on the windshield or front side windows. The only exception to this rule applies to those with medical exemptions. You may apply for a medical exemption by filling out this online application. The final part of this application must be filled out by your physician. Typically, qualifying conditions will involve illnesses with ophthalmic or dermatological photosensitivity.

For the backside windows and rear windows, any amount of tint is allowed. Visual Light Transmission (VLT) refers to the percent of visible light that gets through your car windows. Some states establish VLT limits for tinted windows. However, in New Jersey, the backside and rear windows may be tinted to restrict any amount of VLT.

What Are the Reasons that the Police Can Pull You Over in New Jersey?

A police officer cannot simply pull someone over on a hunch or because they do not like the look of the driver. Rather, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the person they are pulling over is breaking the law.

Some people are pulled over because they committed traffic violations. For example, you may be subject to a traffic stop if you were speeding, swerving between lanes, or disobeying traffic signals. If an officer personally observed you breaking a traffic law, then they have valid grounds to pull you over.

Furthermore, some traffic stops are performed because of problems with motorists’ vehicles. For instance, you may be pulled over for illegal window tint, a broken headlight, a broken taillight, an expired registration, or a license plate obstruction. If there is something wrong with your car, then an officer may have valid grounds to pull you over.

Are There Times When the Police Can Pull You Over Without Cause in New Jersey?

In most cases, officers must have a reasonable suspicion that drivers are breaking the law in order to pull them over. However, there are rare circumstances where people can be stopped without cause. For instance, DWI checkpoints do not usually require any reasonable suspicion to pull drivers over.

DWI checkpoints involve systematically stopping vehicles that pass through them. These stops typically follow pre-determined patterns to prevent arbitrary enforcement. As an example, the police might pull over every third or fourth vehicle travelling through a checkpoint.

While DWI checkpoints allow officers to pull vehicles over without reasonable suspicion, they are still limited in how they may be implemented. For instance, the police cannot set up DWI checkpoints without informing the public first. Usually, notice will be placed in local newspapers, on the radio, or on the news.

Victims of Improper Traffic Stops in New Jersey Can Call Our Law Firm for Support

Seek guidance and support from our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by dialing (609) 616-4956 today.

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