A New Orleans police officer uses a window tint meter to check the percentage of VLT or visible light transmission, which is the percentage of light a window film allows to pass through a car window. In Louisiana, the legal VLT percentage is 40%.

Robert Stevenson has noticed windows that are tinted so dark that he can't see the people inside in some cars on the Louisiana roads he travels, and they've sparked a question.

"In Louisiana, it used to be illegal to have tinted windows on the windshield, driver's side and passenger side windows in cars," the Central reader said. "Now almost every car has them tinted. Was the law changed or repealed? I have seen autos rejected for the inspection stickers because of these tints — so what happened?"

The answer goes back to 1993, when Louisiana first began regulating the tint percentage in automobile windows. According to Cpt. Bert Dabadie, the law hasn't changed much since then. 

Primarily, local agencies enforce the law — and that enforcement could vary from place to place. 

"If you look up Louisiana's Title 32, you can find it there," said Dabadie, a commander in the Louisiana State Police's Transportation Safety Services Department. "It allows for 40% tint, but it does have some exemptions for medical and security. We deal with the exemptions quite a bit up here."

The specifics of Louisiana's revised statute, titled RS 32:361.1, can be found by visiting legis.la.gov/Legis/law.aspx?d=88294 on the Louisiana Legislature's website.

Then again, as thorough as that reference may be, it may contain too much legalese for many readers, so a good alternative source spelling out the basics of the law could be the Louisiana section of the Window Tint Laws website at windowtintlaws.us/louisiana/.

The website first offers an explanation of VLT or visible light transmission: "The percentage of light that a window tint film allows to pass through your car windows is called the VLT (Visible Light Transmission), and each state has different legal allowable limits. The amount of light allowed to pass through your film and glass in Louisiana is very specific to the state and is different for Passenger Vehicles and Multi-Purpose Vehicles."

Dabadie reiterates this point.

"The law is different in each state," he said.

Dabadie says that other states allow for windows to be tinted darker than Louisiana permits, including Florida, which allows for significantly darker windows. In Louisiana, the Window Tint Laws website has broken down the specifics for passenger vehicles in Louisiana's law.

Different seats in a vehicle have difference regulations. The front windshield is allowed to have a nonreflective tint above the manufacturer’s AS-1 line or top 5 inches. The front seat side windows can have up to 40% tint darkness, while the back seat side windows can have up to 12% tint darkness. The rear window can have up to 12% tint darkness allowed.

The law is a little different for multipurpose vehicles:

  • Front windshield: A nonreflective tint is allowed above the manufacturer’s AS-1 line or top 5 inches.
  • Front seat side windows: Up to 40% tint darkness is allowed.
  • Back seat side windows: Any tint darkness can be used.
  • Rear window: Any tint darkness can be used.

"The percentage is the light transmission — how much light can transmit through the window," Dabadie said. "We (the State Police) use what's called a tint meter to measure the tint in car windows. Sometimes we see a tinted front windshield, and that's highly illegal."

In the meantime, the Window Tint Laws website provides answers to some additional questions regarding auto window tinting in Louisiana:

  • All tint colors are allowed in Louisiana except red and amber.
  • Manufacturers of film must certify the film they sell in the state. 
  • A sticker to identify legal tinting is required between the film and glass on the driver’s side window.
  • Louisiana law does allow medical exemptions for tinted windows. The Office of the State Police grants certificates of exemption in case of certain medical conditions.

Curious Louisiana is a community-driven reporting project that connects readers to our newsrooms' resources to dig, research and find answers about the Pelican State. Bottom line: If you've got a question about something Louisiana-centric, ask us. 

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com