Driver takes window tint case to high court

By Josh Weinhold
Law Bulletin staff writer

SPRINGFIELD — A man who Chicago police ticketed for parking a car with tinted front windows wants the Illinois Supreme Court to review whether the policy oversteps the city's authority.

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Sudip Ray, who received the $250 fine in 2010, contends his car meets state window tint standards and the city doesn't hold the power to pass a stricter policy.

Ray's attorney, Thomas T. Glasgow of the Law Offices of Thomas Glasgow Ltd. in Schaumburg, filed a petition for leave to appeal asking the justices to review lower court rulings that upheld the fine.

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse, we get that," Glasgow said. "However, the assumption for anyone who gets in their car and utilizes public highways is that there's going to be a uniform code for how they're supposed to conduct themselves on the roadway."

The state constitution designates Chicago as a "home rule unit" based on its population, which allows it to adopt legislation to "protect the public health, safety and welfare" of its citizens.

Ray's petition, though, contends the window tint ordinance fails a three-part validity test established in Illinois case law.

Ray argues the policy unduly burdens intrastate and interstate commerce and bears no rational relationship to its stated aim of protecting police officers. He also claims the Illinois Vehicle Code doesn't allow cities to regulate equipment on automobiles.

Allowing the ordinance to remain in place, Glasgow said, gives home rule municipalities the power to enact a variety of restrictions on vehicles, creating confusion over where cars can legally drive.

"If the Supreme Court allows this type of precedent, you're essentially saying the home rule authorities can do whatever they want to do with any kind of traffic or any kind of equipment," Glasgow said. "And they can essentially hobble intrastate or interstate travel."

A spokesman for the city's Law Department could not be reached for comment.

Police ticketed Ray's car in 2010 and he contested the fine. Both Robert W. Barber, an administrative law judge, and Cook County Circuit Judge Patrick T. Rogers upheld the penalty.

On appeal, a unanimous panel of the 1st District Appellate Court found that no state law indicated the legislature wanted to trump the city's ability to adopt the ordinance.

Ray's petition to the high court, filed Oct. 26, does not appear on the November leave to appeal docket — the list of cases it could accept or decline later this month. The justices will next act on a batch of appeal petitions in late January.

Glasgow and an associate, Stephanie K. Olsson, represent Ray pro bono.

While Glasgow said the tinting policy troubles him, the ordinance represents a much bigger issue.

"This is less about tinted windows and more about developing a more pro-business attitude throughout the state of Illinois," he said. "This is not the 1800s where you need to make sure your horse is checked at the gate before you come into the village — but that's essentially what this does."

The case is Sudip Ray v. City of Chicago, No. 115141.