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Marking Tires with Chalk for Parking Enforcement is Unconstitutional

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In the end of April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that using chalk to mark your tires violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from illegal searches and seizures. The decision affects Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Michigan resident Alison Taylor went after the city of Saginaw—and specifically parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins—after she received her 15th parking ticket within a span of a few years. In each instance, Hoskins allegedly marked Taylor’s tire with chalk and then circled back to see if the vehicle had moved.

Taylor argued that since Hoskins trespassed upon a car that is privately owned on a public road to start gathering information—by chalking—to enforce a government sanction is considered unconstitutional. The federal appeals court agreed, claiming such trespassing requires a warrant.

A three-judge panel found that chalking is a form of a “search” since government officials obtain information by physically trespassing upon a constitutionally protected area. Then the court determined the city searches were unreasonable since the cars are legally parked without probable cause or specific wrongdoing.

The city argued that the search was reasonable because of the reduced expectation of privacy given to motor vehicles, as well as the caretaker exception that enables law enforcement to intervene if there is a threat to public safety. However, the court disagreed.

University of Southern California (USC) professor Orin Kerr says parking officials could simply take a photo of the car—rather than chalking it—to avoid issues with the Fourth Amendment. Over the last few years, major cities have started using technology to monitor parking, such as license plate readers.

For more information, contact Patituce & Associates today at (440) 471-7784 and schedule a free consultation today.