A Maryland court of Appeals clarified under which conditions law enforcement can stop cars who seem to have illegal tint on their windows this past week. Basically, they found that if an officer can articulate in a credible manner what made the vehicle appear to have illegal tint, it can be stopped. Their wording suggests, however, that cops may want to have a tint testing device handy when making those stops, however.
Maryland law states that no less than 35% of light can be transmitted through a vehicle window for it to be considered legal. More often than not, the initial estimate of this and the source of a fine is nothing more than a guess by officers.
The case that brought the issue before the Court of Appeals involved a man driving a vehicle that was suspected of carrying drugs. The officer had no legal justification for stopping the car he saw, even though he thought it to be the suggested drug car. The tint, however, did appear suspiciously dark.
According to the officer, the vehicle’s driver was obeying all traffic laws but noticed at an intersection that he couldn’t see into the vehicle. This was the basis of his traffic stop—possible illegal tint. By the officer’s own admission, he hadn’t received any training on window tinting but that he believed he should have been able to see inside.
In the vehicle was found cocaine and marijuana. The Circuit Court in the driver’s criminal case suppressed the evidence stating it was an illegal seizure as there wasn’t sufficient probable cause to stop and search the car. The Court of Appeals agreed.
When the police search you or your vehicle, they must follow the letter of the law. This includes having what’s referred to as probable cause or a warrant. Without it any evidence seized might not be admissible in court, as the drugs in this case weren’t.
According to the Baltimore Sun, 30 State Troopers carry light meters, able to test tinting while about 1,500 do not. By their own estimate, if you can’t see in the vehicle, you may want to get it checked before you end up in a questionable traffic stop.
Criminal evidence can take many forms. All criminal evidence must be seized legally for it to be used against you in court. As a Maryland criminal defense attorney, it’s part of my job to look at how the evidence against you was taken and to ensure your constitutional rights are protected throughout the criminal process.
If you’re facing charges, contact me today for a free consultation on your case.