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FARMINGTON — For much of the year, Farmington is bright and sunny, which can wreak havoc on the interior of an automobile.

One of the ways people protect against those damaging rays of sun is by tinting their windows, and for many, the darker the tint the better.

There's just one problem. New Mexico has a law that regulates how dark windows can be, and according to officials, many of the darkened cars driving on Farmington's roads are illegally tinted.

The issue is one of safety.

"When you're driving with a 5 percent tint on your side windows, it really does inhibit your ability to see," said Farmington Police Captain Vince Mitchell. "Something else to consider is that law enforcement also can't see into people's cars."

It isn't just law enforcement officials that are worried about the number of blacked-out cars on Farmington's roadways. During a recent open forum hosted by the mayor, one resident expressed concern.

"They were concerned that there are vehicles in town with tinted windows that don't comply with the law," Mayor Tommy Roberts said. "It's a concern for the police for safety reasons, and they do have an ongoing enforcement effort."

What makes the issue confusing is that there isn't a national standard. The law changes from state to state and of the states with tinting regulation, New Mexico has one of the most lax in the nation.

According to state statute, windows on automobiles in New Mexico can't be tinted anymore than 20 percent.


In other words, the tint must allow more than 20 percent of the light in.

Since 2003, Farmington has had an ordinance adopting the state statute's regulation of tinting. What makes it hard to enforce is that Farmington Police Officers don't have enough devices used to test a window's tinting.

"It is one of the laws that we enforce, but I can tell you that it depends on whether or not an officer has the necessary device to test the level of tint," Mitchell said. "Right now, we have four or five of the devices, and in next fiscal year's budget, we put in a request to get more."

San Juan County doesn't have a separate tinting ordinance.

"Our deputies follow state law," said County Attorney Jim Durrett.

The police department does understand that with the intense sun of the area, tinting is necessary. In fact, a majority of Farmington's patrol cars have tinted windows.

"Our patrol cars are not illegally tinted," Mitchell said. "We make sure they are compliant with the ordinance. The main reason they are tinted is to protect the sensitive equipment from heat during the summer months. With the computers, cameras and radios, if it gets too warm, a patrol car can lose between $7,000 and $8,000 dollars of equipment."

Another issue for enforcement is that many local businesses that tint car windows leave it up to the customer to decide how much of a tint they are going to get.

In an informal survey of Farmington's tinting businesses, a majority said that they will provide whatever level of tint a customer desires, so long as the customer signs the receipt saying they know it's illegal.

Sun Glass is one of the few local businesses that won't tint illegally.

"We get people all the time asking for it," said Sun Glass employee Dorothey Jacquez. "We tell them we aren't going to do it."