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Back Window Tint Does Not Support Need For Stop By Police

Today, in State v. David L. Smith, our New Jersey Supreme Court examined whether tint on a rear windshield justifies a investigatory stop of a motor vehicle allowing the police to perform a search. The court determined it did not.

David L. Smith was driving a vehicle around 10:20pm in Trenton, NJ with tint on his rear windshield. An officer stopped David for a tinted window violation and determined that David’s movements in his vehicle were suspicious. The officer acknowledged that he was able to see that defendant was alone in the vehicle and making shoving motions; meaning the tint on the rear windshield did not prevent the officer from seeing inside the vehicle. Upon search, they found various weapons. David was charged with a window tint violation and weapon offenses.

​The matter reached the NJ Supreme Court to determine whether the State established a reasonable and articulable suspicion for the car stop. The court determined that NJSA 39:3-74 prohibits operation of a vehicle with any non-transparent material on the front windshield or front side windows. This statute does not state that it is a violation to have a back windshield tinted. Consequently, the initial stop based on a rear tinted window was not justified. Therefore, anything found during the unjustified stop can not be used against the person.