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Police in the Dark About Enforcing Windshield Law

February 10, 1985

BOSTON (AP) _ More than a month after the effective date of a state law banning heavily tinted automobile windshields, law enforcement officials in Massachusetts are still in the dark about how to enforce it.

The law, which makes it illegal to have car windows that block more than 65 percent of the outside light, was designed to protect police officers who must peer into cars, to help identify hit-and-run drivers and to allow eye contact between drivers at intersections.

But police departments and the Registry of Motor Vehicles haven’t been provided with measuring devices to check for compliance, according to a report published Sunday in The Boston Globe. And police officers say they aren’t sure whether the law applies to cars that were equipped with tinted windows before the Jan. 1 effective date.

″In its present form, the law is confusing, unworkable and unrealistic,″ said Rep. Thomas White, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety. ″Now we have to rectify all that has gone wrong.″

An amendment that would have fine-tuned the law died in the Legislature late last year, but new hearings are planned within the month that could eventually lead to revisions.

One group that will be seeking to modify the law is the Massachusetts Limousine Association, said president John Karaian.

″Part of what we sell is privacy to individuals such as corporate heads or celebrities,″ he said. ″I think the law is necessary, but I don’t think it’s fair to us, and I’d like to see some kind of compromise.″

Peter Kopanon, chief of inspections for the Registry, said that because of the way the law is currently written, some police officers have interpreted it as banning all tinted glass, not simply the darker tints.

To lessen the confusion, the Registry is acquiring samples of tinted materials that illustrate legal and illegal transparencies. The samples would be provided to local officials, Kopanon said.

In the meantime, John Bartinelli, a Newton Police traffic captain, said he has instructed his officers to use their own judgment when stopping cars. Violation of the law carries a $250 fine.

″I tell them if you can’t see inside the vehicle, then write the ticket,″ Bartinelli said. ″So far, we’ve cited three motorists since the first of the year, and all of them have appealed the fine and are going to court.

″We can’t prove our case on the spot of the violation because we don’t have the tools to do it,″ he said.

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