The Indiana auto tint law differs from many other states' in that it allows officers to issue a ticket simply if "the occupants of the vehicle cannot be easily identified or recognized through that window from outside the vehicle."
However, drivers can defend themselves in court if they can prove the film has a "total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than twenty-five percent (25%) as measured on the nonfilm side and light transmittance of at least thirty percent (30%) in the visible light range."
Source: Indiana Code. Title 9, Article 19, Chapter 19, Section 4 (c)
As it's illegal to do so, most of the tint shops Angie's List Magazine spoke with say they refuse to tint a vehicle's windows beyond the legal limit, only making the allowed exceptions for medical reasons or show vehicles. Indiana's tint law also only applies to the front windshield, front driver and passenger door windows, and rear window. Rear passenger door windows and rear panel windows, like those on SUVs and vans, are exempt. Police agencies say they rarely cite tint shops, choosing instead to focus on motorists. The fine for installation of illegal tint can range up to $10,000.
Despite frequent requests for illegal tint, Dave Lemen, owner of highly rated Pro-Tint in Indianapolis, keeps his customers on the right side of the law.
Chris Brennan, owner of highly rated Tint King in Indianapolis, says he gets many requests for darker-than-legal tint. "We won't do an illegal tint - it's not legal to install anything beyond the legal limit, unless they have a medical exemption," he says. His persuasion usually includes economics. "It's $120 to $150 for a ticket that says they have to remove the film and it's $200 to remove it," he says. "If you factor in the original work, the ticket and the removal, you've got $500 wrapped up pretty quickly."
But some are willing to satisfy customer demands. Alan Swardson, owner of Indianapolis Window Tinting - a company not yet rated on Angie's List - estimates he tints 100 vehicles a month. "Very rarely is a vehicle done at the legal limits," he says. "[The law] does say we're not supposed to. Most people are pushing it just a tad."
He also tells his customers it's not legal. "The law says there has to be visibility into the vehicle, so it's kind of a gray area with the way it's written," he says.
Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Emery says he follows one rule. "If I'm driving, and I can't tell how many people are in the vehicle or if the driver's not easily identifiable, I'm going to enforce [the law]," he says.
The Marion County Court Clerk's Office processed 546 motorists' window tint citations in 2008 and 320 in 2007. Fines vary by jurisdiction, but in Marion County, if a driver admits the violation and corrects the problem, it's a $75 fine. If the driver fails to answer the charge or correct the violation within 60 days, the fine increases to $150. Drivers also can fight the ticket in court, but face fines of up to $500 if they lose.
The law doesn't address selling a car with illegal tint, but some dealers err on the side of caution. "I take it off. I don't want my customers having any issues," says Ron Simon, used-car manager for A-rated Tom O'Brien Chrysler in Greenwood.
For any vehicle with illegal tint, Emery says the operator is ultimately responsible. "If you're operating a motor vehicle, you're the captain of that ship - you're responsible," Emery says. "If it's illegal, we're going to take enforcement action."