The Reason You Got Burned: Your Window Tint

So, you’re a private investigator on a stakeout. It’s a bright, sunny day. You’re in your car in a fixed surveillance position and your Subject somehow becomes aware of you. Did you get burned because of your window tint?

The Setup

As a P.I. window tint is a must – it keeps you out of view from neighbors, onlookers, and of course, your Subject.

But, before slapping some on your windows, it’s important to know your state’s laws and general info.

Each state has laws for the front side, backside, rear windows, windshield, and reflectivity.

When you see data on window tint, you’ll see it categorized by percentage.

Rule of thumb: The lower the percentage, the DARKER the tint, and less sunlight can come into your car. The higher the percentage the lighter the tint and more sun can come in.

tint law rule of thumb

I went ahead and linked to the laws in all 50 states (click here)tint laws in 50 statesHere’s a handy little US map for the level of tint allowed from front side windows:

Let’s take Ohio and Kentucky for example, the states in which I’m licensed.

The front side window is at 35%. This means you can’t have a tint that allows less than 35% of the rays on your front side window.

It’s 18% on both the rear side and rear back windows. So you can go darker tint there.

The windshield tint allows that you can place a strip of tint to the top of the car manufacturer’s “AS-1” line.


The AS-1 line is a line extending from the AS-1, found on most motor vehicle windshields.

It runs parallel to the top of the windshield or at about 5 inches.

In Ohio, only 50% is allowed on front side windows.

But any level, even limo tint, is allowed on the rear side and rear back windows. So, we can go crazy there.

In Ohio, we can tint our front windshield to less than 70%.

My two cents: if you can, get your rear side and back windows as dark as possible.

Especially, if you have an SUV or minivan. When you add dark tint to the rear windows, they don’t seem to change the look of your car that much.

That’s because most factory-made large vehicles come with a high level of rear tint as it is.

But, if you can match the front and back window tint, I tend to go that route.

It’s visually appealing and it makes your car blend in well.

My cars also have had the 5” band across the top of the windshield.

Though some installers won’t put it there if you a “frit” band. Those tiny little dots around the edge of your windshield.

frit band

I avoid reflective tint, because it stands out – it doesn’t blend in too well.

I’m not against limo tint.

But if you’re parked for extended periods in your car in a suburban area, it might bring more attention than less.

When it comes to the law though, I actually could receive a fine for my tint.

I’d be willing to pay that fine.

In my 15 years of driving with “illegal” tint, I’ve never been pulled over and never been cited for it.

I chalk it up to that police officers aren’t looking to cite someone for window tint. It’s a minor offense and since so many already have it, it’s not worth it for them to stop me.

So, depending on how aggressive your local PD is, it’s up to you how “illegal” you want to tint your windows.

Also, some states allow exemptions. Under some state laws, private investigators can get exemptions on window tinting.

So check your local statutes and revised code for those details.

Quick Tint Tips

Even though you have window tint, the sun can shine through, exposing your silhouette.

#1 – Make sure you angle your car to avoid direct sun glare.

I always like to park with the sun at the back of my car if I can and not blasting through the front window.

In cold months, the sun is low and can do that to you.

#2 – Find some shade wherever you park.

When I find a stationary spot and park on the street, I usually try to park where there is an overhanging tree.

It doubles the effectiveness of your car’s tint.

#3 – I always have a front window shade to block out any sun coming in the front window and any onlookers.

I get shades that you can pop in and out quickly into your front windshield.

#4 – If you’re in a van or larger vehicle, sitting in the rear seats and using window curtains are huge too.

Passersby seem to only pay attention to who is in the driver’s seat and don’t notice people in the back seat.

Curtains block out any silhouette.

Also, some minivans come stock with mesh shades that pull up from the sliding door.

So you may not even need curtains on the side windows.

#5 – If you’re renting a vehicle and don’t want to use your own to save on mileage, I always ask for an SUV or minivan.

They come stock with factory-level rear side and back window shade.

The front windows aren’t tinted, but I assume I’ll be sitting in the rear of the vehicle anyways.

Over to you…

What percentage do you have in your windows?

Have you ever been given a ticket for illegal window tint?

Comment below. Let me know.