What’s the point of laws on tint and illegal license plate covers in North Carolina?

What’s the deal with the laws on tint? There is a tint law in North Carolina. In fact, the Department of Motor Vehicles apparently is the one responsible for enforcing it. I posed this question a couple months ago about enforcement by the Greensboro Police Department to my city councilwoman, but she responded that it’s out of their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of one single incidence where someone was fined or charged with an infraction by the DMV since being here.
According to the North Carolina Vehicle Code:

(b) Window Tinting Restrictions. – A window of a vehicle that is operated on a highway or a public vehicular area shall comply with this subsection. The windshield of the vehicle may be tinted only along the top of the windshield and the tinting may not extend more than five inches below the top of the windshield or below the AS1 line of the windshield, whichever measurement is longer. Provided, however, an untinted clear film which does not obstruct vision but which reduces or eliminates ultraviolet radiation from entering a vehicle may be applied to the windshield. Any other window of the vehicle may be tinted in accordance with the following restrictions:
(1) The total light transmission of the tinted window shall be at least thirty‑five percent (35%). A vehicle window that, by use of a light meter approved by the Commissioner, measures a total light transmission of more than thirty‑two percent (32%) is conclusively presumed to meet this restriction.
(2) The light reflectance of the tinted window shall be twenty percent (20%) or less.
(3) Tinted film or another material used to tint the window shall be nonreflective and shall not be red, yellow, or amber.
(c) Tinting Exceptions. – The window tinting restrictions in subsection (b) of this section apply without exception to the windshield of a vehicle. The window tinting restrictions in subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section do not apply to any of the following vehicle windows:
(1) A window of an excursion passenger vehicle, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(27)a.
(2) A window of a for‑hire passenger vehicle, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(27)b.
(3) A window of a common carrier of passengers, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(27)c.
(4) A window of a motor home, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(27)d2.
(5) A window of an ambulance, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(27)f.
(6) The rear window of a property‑hauling vehicle, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01(31).
(7) A window of a limousine.
(8) A window of a law enforcement vehicle.
(9) A window of a multipurpose vehicle that is behind the driver of the vehicle. A multipurpose vehicle is a passenger vehicle that is designed to carry 10 or fewer passengers and either is constructed on a truck chassis or has special features designed for occasional off‑road operation. A minivan and a pickup truck are multipurpose vehicles.
(10) A window of a vehicle that is registered in another state and meets the requirements of the state in which it is registered.
(11) A window of a vehicle for which the Division has issued a medical exception permit under subsection (f) of this section.
(d) Violations. – A person who does any of the following commits a misdemeanor of the class set in G.S. 20‑176:
(1) Applies tinting to the window of a vehicle that is subject to a safety inspection in this State and the resulting tinted window does not meet the window tinting restrictions set in this section.
(2) Drives on a highway or a public vehicular area a vehicle that has a window that does not meet the window tinting restrictions set in this section.
(e) Defense. – It is a defense to a charge of driving a vehicle with an unlawfully tinted window that the tinting was removed within 15 days after the charge and the window now meets the window tinting restrictions. To assert this defense, the person charged shall produce in court, or submit to the prosecuting attorney before trial, a certificate from the Division of Motor Vehicles or the Highway Patrol showing that the window complies with the restrictions.
(f) Medical Exception. – A person who suffers from a medical condition that causes the person to be photosensitive to visible light may obtain a medical exception permit. To obtain a permit, an applicant shall apply in writing to the Drivers Medical Evaluation Program and have his or her doctor complete the required medical evaluation form provided by the Division. The permit shall be valid for five years from the date of issue, unless a shorter time is directed by the Drivers Medical Evaluation Program. The renewal shall require a medical recertification that the person continues to suffer from a medical condition requiring tinting.
A person may receive no more than two medical exception permits that are valid at any one time. A permit issued under this subsection shall specify the vehicle to which it applies, the windows that may be tinted, and the permitted levels of tinting. The permit shall be carried in the vehicle to which it applies when the vehicle is driven on a highway.
The Division shall give a person who receives a medical exception permit a sticker to place on the lower left‑hand corner of the rear window of the vehicle to which it applies. The sticker shall be designed to give prospective purchasers of the vehicle notice that the windows of the vehicle do not meet the requirements of G.S. 20‑127(b), and shall be placed between the window and the tinting when the tinting is installed. The Division shall adopt rules regarding the specifications of the medical exception sticker. Failure to display the sticker is an infraction punishable by a two hundred dollar ($200.00) fine. (1937, c. 407, s. 90; 1953, c. 1254; 1955, c. 1157, s. 2; 1959, c. 1264, s. 7; 1967, c. 1077; 1985, c. 789; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 997; 1987, c. 567; 1987 (Reg. Sess., 1988), c. 1082, ss. 7‑8.1; 1989, c. 770, s. 66; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 1007, s. 34; 1993, c. 539, s. 360; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 683, s. 1; c. 754, s. 4; 1995, c. 14, s. 1; c. 473, s. 1; 2000‑75, s. 1.)

Interestingly enough, inspection stickers where this is found are usually passed out like candy. I fortunately have met some stations on the up and up, but there are many out there that will just give you a sticker without even bringing your car in. There are others that will tell you that they won’t pass you due to you tint. Reminds me of some older fella that went in and the Texaco station told him that. He replied that he’s lived here for five years and moved up from Florida and never had this issue. Go figure that.
Then there’s the illegal plate covers. Most people don’t realize that you cannot put things covering your license plate that prevent cameras or anything else from viewing the license plate itself. This includes those darkened license plate covers that you can hardly see the numbers in, or the semi-clear ones that have a haze on them. Don’t believe me? Read the code:

(g) Alteration, Disguise, or Concealment of Numbers. – Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall willfully mutilate, bend, twist, cover or cause to be covered or partially covered by any bumper, light, spare tire, tire rack, strap, or other device, or who shall paint, enamel, emboss, stamp, print, perforate, or alter or add to or cut off any part or portion of a registration plate or the figures or letters thereon, or who shall place or deposit or cause to be placed or deposited any oil, grease, or other substance upon such registration plates for the purpose of making dust adhere thereto, or who shall deface, disfigure, change, or attempt to change any letter or figure thereon, or who shall display a number plate in other than a horizontal upright position, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall willfully cover or cause to be covered any part or portion of a registration plate or the figures or letters thereon by any device designed or intended to prevent or interfere with the taking of a clear photograph of a registration plate by a traffic control system using cameras commits an infraction and shall be fined under G.S. 14‑3.1. Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall otherwise intentionally cover any number or registration renewal sticker on a registration plate with any material that makes the number or registration renewal sticker illegible commits an infraction and shall be fined under G.S. 14‑3.1. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit the use of transparent covers that are not designed or intended to prevent or interfere with the taking of a clear photograph of a registration plate by a traffic control system using cameras.

That last line says that you can use transparent covers, but only if it isn’t designed to interfere with photographing or prevent it. Go figure that since most of the covers are sold for that exact purpose. This is punishable by … well, zero points on your record, and perhaps a misdemeanor. I believe police officers could pull you over for this infraction, but again, who holds jurisdiction? Perhaps the fines and/or consequences need to be raised. In any case, the laws are not really enforced which is too bad since that’s the whole point of having a law isn’t it?

  • My cousin’s roomate’s 3rd uncle’s sister-in-law was pulled over by a DMV car (yes, they do have them) for illegal tinting on her windshield.
    There, now you’ve heard of someone so in the future you cannot make the statement that you haven’t.
    haha
    On a serious note, I really have heard of folks being forced to remove the tint and/or window due to this law, but they are rare and it has been a long while.

  • My cousin’s roomate’s 3rd uncle’s sister-in-law was pulled over by a DMV car (yes, they do have them) for illegal tinting on her windshield.
    There, now you’ve heard of someone so in the future you cannot make the statement that you haven’t.
    haha
    On a serious note, I really have heard of folks being forced to remove the tint and/or window due to this law, but they are rare and it has been a long while.

  • Your cousin…forget it. Too much to trace. Yeah, I’ve seen DMV vehicles pull semis over and such before. But on I-40, there’s like what… 2 of them?
    I’ve heard about the removal of tint (or in my case, re-tint) because I had to do it having had it tinted in Arizona. But there are a lot of vehicles out there that don’t have it. What’s more interesting is that I’ve heard those with yellow stickers can have it. I don’t know for a fact, but according to the state regulations above, there’s nothing that says those counties are any different.

  • darkmoon

    Your cousin…forget it. Too much to trace. Yeah, I’ve seen DMV vehicles pull semis over and such before. But on I-40, there’s like what… 2 of them?
    I’ve heard about the removal of tint (or in my case, re-tint) because I had to do it having had it tinted in Arizona. But there are a lot of vehicles out there that don’t have it. What’s more interesting is that I’ve heard those with yellow stickers can have it. I don’t know for a fact, but according to the state regulations above, there’s nothing that says those counties are any different.

  • Tracy

    Yeah, but do you know that it is now illegal to put lettering on your back window. I went to get my business vehicle inspected last week and they informed me of then new restriction. Ver 1.12 Aug 2006 19A NCAC 03D .0551 Window Tinting ends with “All after market lettering on vehicle window(s) is illegal”. I mean, come on….

  • Tracy

    Yeah, but do you know that it is now illegal to put lettering on your back window. I went to get my business vehicle inspected last week and they informed me of then new restriction. Ver 1.12 Aug 2006 19A NCAC 03D .0551 Window Tinting ends with “All after market lettering on vehicle window(s) is illegal”. I mean, come on….